Film review: Seaspiracy – barking up the wrong tree

Photo credit: Seaspiracy.

By Anders Lorenzen

For anyone concerned about safeguarding our planet one can be in no doubt about the plight facing our oceans and the urgency of the call for action.

Kip Anderson’s new documentary Seaspiracy, directed by Ali Tabrizi (currently streaming on Netflix), follows the same format as his two previous films Cowspiracy and What the Health, that the only way not to destroy our food systems, our environments and enhance a future human race is to go vegan. A black and white choice with no nuance. 

The premise of the film is that the filmmaker Tabrizi is one of the first people to uncover that the way our seas are mismanaged and predictably concludes that the only way out is for everyone to stop eating fish and seafood.

Cherrypicking facts

The film champions the activist ocean campaign group, Sea Shepherd, as the only organisation truly dedicated to dealing with the issue of illegal fishing, overfishing and plastic pollution while neglecting to reference the fact that some of their methods are considered too dangerous by almost every green group out there. 

Anderson also again paints a narrative that most of all the advocacy groups working in this area are complicit as they don’t advocate for people to stop eating fish and seafood, cherrypicking facts and science to fit his narrative. 

The troubling state of the oceans

Have we dealt with the urgency that our oceans require and deserve? Arguably not and there could be no doubt about that, most groups and policymakers working on this would the first to admit to that. Are the priorities set out by the European Union, as featured in the film, and governments around the world, ambitious enough? Absolutely not and there’s a clear problem with vested interests. We know all this, campaigners have been working on this for years and none of the issues highlighted in Seaspiracy are new issues.

What it gets right

However, having said all that there’s of course stuff the film gets right. Everyone should be alarmed about both the legal and illegal fishing practises exposed in the film, the worrying scale of shark killings, fish farms, as well as the mass-killings of dolphins, turtles and other species critical to ocean biodiversity and survival of the ocean eco-system we all depend on. There can be no doubt that the way our oceans are managed is completely unsustainable. 

In addition to this, on a human level, we should be incredibly concerned about the scale of modern slavery in the fishing industry. These are all issues that should be at forefront of our attention and deserve more front-page global coverage.

Damaging to the movement 

But the film seems determined to damage and divide the ocean conservation community and weaken the support that groups receive which could impact the critical work they do. Everyone has a role to play no matter how big. And while the film briefly touches on it, there’s a crucial opportunity missed to go after companies and corrupt governments at the heart of ocean destruction. 

It also fails to communicate that while there’s still a mountain to climb, some small victories have been achieved such as the banning of discards in the EU and the creation of ocean marine reserves. Some of this a result of campaigning by Greenpeace and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall through his Fish Fight documentary series. 

Fundamentally without providing more optimism and highlighting some success stories, it instils a view of hopelessness and the lack of belief that there is anything viewers can do to stop the demise of the oceans, apart from going vegan of course.

Already there have been claims that many of the findings in the film are distorted, incorrect and interviews were taken out of context.

In the age of ‘false news’ one has to be careful of not distorting facts. One could even be cynical and wonder about whether the objective is first and foremost to get people to go vegan rather than protect the oceans.

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