Fish are friends, not food

The brutal honesty behind “Seaspiracy”

Annie Symons, Staff Reporter

Ali Tabrizi (Filmmaker and avid ocean-lover) in Seaspiracy. (Courtesy of Lucy Tabrizi)

People are lying. Marine life is dying.

Dishes like clam chowder or spicy tuna rolls might satisfy a restaurant patron for a brief moment, but Netflix’s latest documentary about worldwide oceanic distress causes audience members to think twice about their seafood consumption.

Shot and directed by British filmmaker Ali Tabrizi, the film “Seaspiracy” warns viewers about how pollution, overfishing, and unethical business practices will result in the death of not only the oceans but the human race as well.

Tabrizi’s fascination with ocean life began when he was a young boy, but his curiosity led to him embarking on a dangerous mission to several countries. He left his home in England with the goal of uncovering the truth behind marine parks, but instead, he found darker secrets lurking much further under the surface.

Aerial shot of whales and dolphins in the deep blue sea. (Courtesy of Sea Shepherd)

While Tabrizi’s film includes footage of many corrupt practices within the fishing industry, one that stands out is the act of bycatching. When sharks, dolphins, or other animals are unintentionally caught in fishing nets, the fishers simply throw them overboard back into the ocean. Most of them die before they return to the water.

Bycatching results in the death of thousands of sharks and other sea predators, which then impacts the ocean’s food chain. As the animals at the top of the food chain become endangered, other marine species will either overpopulate or die out. If bycatching continues to occur on commercial fishing boats without consequence, the food chain may never rebalance.

“Seaspiracy” also speaks to how the ocean suffers from overfishing, the act of netting far more fish than necessary. Horrified viewers watch as thousands of fish are pulled from the ocean—some by illegal fishers—and tossed aside for market sale or fish feed manufacturing without a second thought for the crumbling ecosystems below.

Behind the scenes of the fishing industry. (Courtesy of Netflix © 2021)

During his time spent in Japan, Tabrizi filmed tuna boats discarding their daily catches at their respective fisheries. Massive amounts of fish scattered the docks, most of which were bluefin tuna, one of the most overfished and endangered species in the entire ocean.

Overfishing affects population control in the ocean, but it also accounts for a vicious cycle in which certain species can become extinct. The film includes graphs and charts that provide more information about how species have become endangered over the past few decades, which help viewers understand just how dangerous overfishing can be.

Due to expensive culinary delicacies like bluefin tuna sashimi and shark fin soup, certain animals are being hunted due to their price or luxury status. Greed serves as the motivating factor for overfishing, and while fisheries’ pockets may benefit, the ocean most certainly does not.

By blending statistics of dwindling ocean life with gut-wrenching photographs of waters dyed red by the blood of hurt animals, “Seaspiracy” allows even the least sympathetic of viewers to witness firsthand the lengths to which people will go in order to earn money.

Tabrizi harshly appeals to the emotional side of his viewers with graphic content, but his bluntness is effective.

In addition to dwindling marine life population, the overwhelming amount of garbage and litter finding its way to the oceans has resulted in floating garbage patches around the globe. Certain audience members will likely reconsider purchasing single-use, disposable products as the film warns them of the deadly effects.

As plastic substances in the ocean break down, they become microplastics (microscopic debris fragments). Fish unknowingly consume microplastics, wreaking havoc in their digestive tracts and resulting in their deaths. The documentary features heartbreaking photos of beached whales that died due to as much as 30 pounds of plastic in their stomachs.

A project like “Seaspiracy” will undoubtedly trigger a range of reactions from audiences. Some may be skeptical, some heartbroken, and some inspired to help. The film features a number of well-known marine biologists and environmentalists, each of whom give the same advice about how people can do their part to save the oceans: stop eating fish.

“Seaspiracy” ends with a hopeful message from marine biologist Sylvia Earle, and she claims that even one person’s attempts to help the oceans recover will have an impact.

“Most of the positive and negative things that bring about change in human civilization start with someone,” Earle said. “Some ‘one.’ No ‘one’ can do everything, but every ‘one’ can do something. And sometimes, big ideas make a big difference. That’s what we can do. That’s what you can do right now.”

“Seaspiracy” is rated TV-14 for smoking, gore, and animal harm.