Seaspiracy is the latest documentary available on Netflix that exposes truths often hidden from the public.  In this case the truths about fishing.  What starts off as a journey for whale and dolphin lover, Ali Tabrizi, to understand why whaling is still prevalent in the world despite a worldwide ban in 1986 ends up in a discovery that the only way to protect the marine mammals that he loves is to stop eating fish altogether.  Despite vegetarianism and veganism not being mentioned at all during the film, Tabrizi discovers yet another reason to turn our backs on consuming animal products.

Produced by Kip Andersen (Cowspiracy, 2014 & What The Health, 2017) the film follows 22-year-old filmmaker Tabrizi who initially set out to follow in the footsteps of Jacques Cousteau and David Attenborough by documenting life beneath the surface of the seas and oceans.  Whilst filming, the world became aware of the damage that plastic waste was causing to marine life as the mainstream media reported that beached whales and dolphins had stomachs full of carelessly discarded single use plastics.

Single Use Plastics

Knowing the importance of the oceans as the world’s largest carbon sink and the roles that whales and dolphins play in the ecosystem that allows carbon to be stored, Tabrizi followed every other environmentally conscious consumer in reducing single use plastics in his life and attending beach clean ups in an effort to minimise the pollution of the oceans.  Just as Tabrizi thought he was doing all he could to help whales, Japan announced that it was pulling out of the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 ban and planned to continue their whaling efforts.  Tabrizi and his partner Lucy travelled to Japan to investigate first-hand.

It did not take the Tabrizi’s long to discover that the killing of whales and other marine mammals was linked to the trade of Bluefin Tuna through methods of industrialised fishing and that the problem was far from unique to Japan, it was global.  The global fishing trade is highly subsidised by governments, rife with piracy in contested waters, linked to slavery and is responsible for the destruction of the sea floors, the endangerment of thousands of species and the biggest contributor of plastic waste in the ocean.

Sustainable Fishing

Google, 2021

Sustainability is a topic discussed with many interviewees during Seaspiracy with many being unable to define the term, in fact they are quoted as saying there is no definition.  An ‘economic’ analogy given by the European Commissioner of Fisheries and the Environment was the closest to the top definition given by Google.  However, his solution to curbing the fishing industry’s destruction to marine environments was not to stop fishing but to “do more sustainable fishing” which is something of an oxymoron.

The only solution that Tabrizi could find to protect the whales and the ocean’s ecosystems was for consumers to drastically reduce or eliminate fish from their diets in turn reducing demand.  He posed the solution to organisations such as Oceana where spokesperson Maria-José Cornax explained “we don’t have a position in that respect,” as the non-profit’s cause is to feed the world using the oceans rather than protecting the ecosystem.  Plastic Pollution Coalition’s spokesperson Jackie Nuñez admitted that the only way to stop the plastic pollution caused by fishing would be to “eliminate or … reduce your intake of fish” but a further discussion with CEO Dianna Cohen saw her deny the statement and Tabrizi discovered that the non-profit is a project of Earth Island Institute which is the guarantor of sustainable label ‘Dolphin Safe Tuna’.

Money Talks

Tabrizi traversed by ‘following the money’ and discovered that even his favourite charities and non-profits were being subsidised somewhere down the line through the killing and exploitation of animals and marine life.  The total global subsidy awarded to the fishing industry is $35,000,000,000 whereas the UN has estimated that it would cost $30,000,000,000 to combat world hunger.  It’s a hard pill to swallow for someone who does not consume fish to realise that their taxes are being used to buoy up the industry.  Founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Captain Paul Watson explains that a lot of groups who purport to want to solve problems such as global warming where solutions also include reducing or eliminating the consumption of meat and fish do not want to lose support from meat-eaters, describing their activities as a “feel-good business”.

Without using terms such as ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’ the Tabrizi’s end the documentary with clips of them enjoying a ‘plant based diet’ where they would not be consuming toxins such as mercury which is bioaccumulated within the marine food chain.  

To find out more about the shocking truth behind the fishing industry watch the documentary on Netflix (fees apply), visit seaspiracy.org where you can sign up for news delivered to your inbox and follow @seaspiracy on Instagram and Twitter.