Netflix original documentary Seaspiracy has had a well deserved meteoric rise from its release only a few days ago on the 24th of March 2021 into the Netflix "top 10" this week.
I'm going to say that the film is by British filmmaking husband-wife duo Ali and Lucy Tabrizi, because it is clear that Lucy not only tolerated her husband's obsession with filmmaking, but has actively immersed herself in it, and has been an inseparable part of this project's success.
The cinematography in Seaspiracy is second to none, while the content of fish, dolphin and whale slaughter is disturbing and the statistics of bycatch, marine pollution and resource depletion are eye-opening and alarming. I am a big fan of presenting the cold hard truth and allowing or forcing people to deal with it in their own way. Seaspiracy certainly does this.
While Seaspiracy has been accused of misrepresenting the interviewees' statements, and undoubtedly Ali uses a provocative Louis Theroux style interview technique, that is uncomfortable to watch, the documentary makes it clear that the organisations representing themselves as leading the way in facilitating sustainable use of marine resources, often do not know what they are talking about. One of them even claimed that sustainability has not been clearly defined. Really people? The international community has been talking about the need for sustainability since the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. Thankfully Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner of Fisheries and Environment correctly defined sustainable resource use as living off the "interest" rather than the "capital" of our natural resources.
Sea Shepherd's Founder Paul Watson points out that there is a "feel good industry" around sustainable product certification, and he believes that there is no such thing as sustainable sea resource harvest. Ali makes the emotional claim that choosing between salmon and tuna is like choosing between polar bear and panda bear from the sustainability perspective. Clearly a filmmaker and not a scientist, but we know what was meant. I think? In addition, he makes the claim that if we eat seafood, the negative impacts of bioaccumulation of toxins outweigh the positive nutrition we gain, and perhaps it would be best if we just stopped eating sea life. That's a matter of better managing our contaminants, not a blanket concern with marine resources.
As with many discussions of wildlife management and conservation, and particularly wildlife harvest for food, the distinction between sustainably providing food resources and animal ethics in Seaspiracy are unjustifiably blurred. When Faroe Islanders hunt whales for food, as they are one of the very limited food resources available in their natural environment, should we criticise them when our practices of destroying forests to grow our food are clearly unsustainable? One, however unpalatable, can continue indefinitely by the nature of its small scale, the other is normalised by society as the basis of our human ecological system, but cannot continue. To my mind, this is where Ali and Lucy overstep the mark into the bounds of being unrealistic. We cannot ignore the human population is rapidly approaching 8,000,000,000 and many of the people who depend on the on the oceans for their food don't have the option to simply choose a different food source, both for economic and geographic reasons. A more rational and holistic approach including indigenous land, sea and wildlife management has to be researched, developed, deployed and continuously improved.
As oceans cover over 2/3 of the Earth's surface, of course they are going to continue to provide a large percentage of the population's food resources into the future. Locking up resources through conventional isolation conservationism (preventing access to sustainable use of wildlife resources) often removes access of less advantaged peoples around the world to their food. Frequently in this system the only the ones with food still in their bellies and a similarly satisfied ego are the descendants of the imperialist white guy and those who have grown up in the luxury of his systems. These are, as we know, often to the detriment of the already less fortunate. I am hypocritical because I am one of those descendants who enjoys National Parks, both terrestrial and marine, and other conservation areas that are a hand-me-down of the imperialist era and were often stolen from the original inhabitants. The Eddie Izzard "No Flag No Country" sketch makes a comedy of this, but it is not too far from the truth of European colonialism and we must continue to create more holistic and considerate strategies for wildlife management and conservation than there have been historically.
Ali and Lucy are right in one way though, we do need to focus and police sustainable food standards to ensure we are still on the roadmap to sustainable food production and to ensure we are not merely justifying our own actions through dumb participation in the "feel good industry". Let's not forget that Conservation Through Sustainable Use has been a credible resource management discipline for decades and we need to help people, including big industry, on their path to making food all food production sustainable. EcoHub will have more on this topic in the coming months.
By Toby Roscoe - toby[at]ecohub.com.au
EcoHub Pty Ltd | Sustainable Solutions Since 2005 PO Box 1581 Airlie Beach Queensland Australia ACN 644094566