Seaspiracy: How the docudrama missed the boat
Like many of Netflix’s 200 million subscribers, I recently watched and cringed through the new film, Seaspiracy.
While the film highlights some real tragic and concerning world issues, it is also being widely criticized for the mass amount of misinformation it presents and the skewed or incomplete contexts through which it does so. For example, the statistic that the seas will be empty of fish by 2048 was a misinterpreted piece of data from 2006 that was debunked by the study's own authors. While the study did show concerns of declining stocks, the data from 2009 and 2020 show progress and deem monitored fish populations to be generally healthy or increasing. [Click here for a full article addressing those and a myriad of other specifics.]
Moreover, to misrepresent the complex relationship we have with the ocean has potentially back-firing consequences.
There is no lack of footage from the world’s most mismanaged fishing operations to support the claim that people need to quit eating fish. Much like an abstinence campaign would feature horror stories of sex to scare hormonal teenagers, this film has a vegan indoctrination agenda that highlights complex issues and presents them as solvable through an idealistic elimination.
Veganism may be an affordable and viable option for some, but it does not provide a solution to feed the 3.3 billion people around the globe who rely on seafood as their main source of protein. Were those 3.3 billion people to depend on horticulture instead, an area about the size of Spain would need to be completely deforested. (source)
To address issues concerning our oceans, we need less black and white thinking and more education on the subject across the board.
Just as horticulture as a whole cannot be represented by Monsanto, “the fishing industry” cannot be represented by the shady and monstrous practices captured in Seaspiracy. To present that narrative does a great disservice to the millions of people (environmentalists, activists, scientists, natives, fisherfolk, responsible consumers) who have been fighting against greed machines for decades.
There are communities and organizations within the industry that have been working hard to install, manage, and support sustainable harvests of the world’s lowest-impact animal protein and to protect the ecosystems that make that harvest possible. They know that a successful enterprise that depends on a healthy ecosystem can afford to protect it.
For example, the Bristol Bay fishery in Alaska manages the world’s largest sockeye salmon run that steadily provides over half the world’s sockeye salmon. Bristol Bay would have been an easy contender for the filmmakers to cover if they actually wanted to explore a “sustainable fishery” instead of presenting the concept as a myth. The multi-billion dollar fishery was able to put together resources and put up one hell of a fight against the proposed Pebble Project--what would have been the largest open-pit mine in the Americas. This giant bowl of toxic sludge would be built over a fault line--a time bomb in the headwaters of a major river system and the pristine lakes all leading to the Alaskan ocean. The inevitable consequences would be devastating to the networked ecosystems of a vast wild region.
Where there is integrity, accountability, and transparency, there can be positive influence over policy. We need respectful, productive, science-based regulations in place to ensure we have a future stewarding the oceans. If we withdraw support from entities who are working hard to do just this, it becomes all the easier for a variety of exploiting forces to carry out their missions.
When consumers are actually educated about how to make responsible choices--instead of being told that they don’t exist--they are empowered to help shape an industry that our populous planet cannot afford to dissolve. They can help create and support an industry that is responsible for protecting its resources from the exact kinds of exploitation exposed in Seaspiracy.
So what can we do? Keep asking questions--know our source and the story we are participating in.
Thanks for caring.
By Jenna Talbott
Photo cred Austin Breckinridge