If like us you look forward to those warm summer days on the British coast, where you tuck into a pile of freshly fried fish and chips, perfectly seasoned with salt and vinegar and accompanied by a bright green pile of mushy peas… maybe don’t watch this doc.
The creators of the vegan favourite, Cowspiracy, are back again, this time making us all feel bad for our love of seafood linguine and fish finger sarnies. Whilst the delicious taste of four hot Bird’s Eye fish fingers, wedged between two hunks of white bread and slathered in Hellmann’s might be a perfect moment of peaceful bliss for those of us doing the scoffing, it’s not quite the same story for the seas the cod has come from.
We’ve all seen Blue Planet II, haven’t we? After a gentle telling off from Sir David, we’ve learned of the perils of plastic straws, and most of us have invested in reusable bottles and some of that trendy bees wax wrap to use instead of clingfilm. But it seems that we aren’t going far enough. This film from 27-year-old British filmmaker Ali Tabrizi documents the devastating effects of commercial fishing on our oceans, and the corruption going on in the million-dollar fishing industry.
Tabrizi travels the world asking – and regularly getting refused – for interviews from those working within the industry. In the 90 minutes of this film, we are told that the fishing industry’s impact is larger than that of oil and plastic pollution, and if we continue the same trajectory, the oceans could be fishless by 2048. Those fish and chips don’t seem so appealing now, do they?
There are some seriously harrowing moments, particularly where Tabrizi visits Southern Japan’s Taiji, where fishermen are slaughtering dolphins, blaming them (and not greedy humans) for the lack of fish. Then there’s the uncomfortable truths – fishing companies ignore ‘dolphin safe’ measures, almost half of the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is made up of discarded fishing equipment, and 300,000 dolphins and whales are killed each year. These facts are harder to swallow than a past-its sell by date oyster.
Naturally, the film has been met with a bit of criticism, with scientists and NGOs questioning its presentation of facts, and suggesting that evidence was cherry picked to make the situation look worse than it actually is, whilst experts interviewed have claimed that their views have been misrepresented. Most prominent among these is Charles Clover, the executive director of the Blue Marine Foundation, who says in a statement “There are a few jaw-dropping factual errors… On top of that the film’s call to action – don’t eat fish because no fishing is sustainable – is thoroughly unsatisfactory. It is more inclined to drive its young audiences to despair or not bother rather than a thoughtful search for solutions.” So, will the next film be called, Docuspiracy?
We can’t answer that, but we can tell you that lots of people loved this film. The Independent’s Charlotte Cripps admits that Seaspiracy is “hard to stomach,” but gives it four stars and says “The last thing this bleak Netflix documentary wants is for viewers to switch off and give up.” And whilst he admits “the film gets some things wrong,” The Guardian’s George Monbiot says it “shows why we must treat fish not as seafood, but as wildlife.”
First shown March 21. You can watch the trailer here: