The latest documentary to make waves in the world of online streaming is Seaspiracy—a film that takes a close look at the human impact on our oceans, from plastic pollution to the fishing industry, ultimately challenging the well-established narrative that it’s personal, one-time-use plastic consumption that is destroying ocean life.
Seaspiracy takes the viewer on an around-the-world journey to expose some of the worst atrocities of the commercial fishing industry—from dolphin and whale slaughter in Japan, whale slaughter in the Faroe Islands, illegal poaching and dragnet fishing off the coast of Liberia in Africa that deprives local small-scale fishing communities from feeding themselves, to shark fin markets in Hong Kong, and modern-day slavery operations on commercial fishing boats based in Thailand.
A main argument in the film is this: the plastic bags, straws, forks, and bottles we consume and discard are not the only or even the gravest threat to ocean life. A tremendous amount of plastic waste in the ocean is commercial fishing waste. It’s worth noting that some critics have argued the film is wrong about just how much. However, the film nevertheless makes a compelling case that the practices used by these floating death machines of the commercial fishing industry are having a devastating impact. Tactics like dragnetting and use of miles-long fishing nets to pillage for human-edible fish are killing familiar species like tuna and dolphins—along with everything else.
The film ends with the position that it’s simply not possible to eat ‘sustainable’ fish, and makes a case for abstaining completely from fish consumption.
Personally, as a committed vegan I found this film compelling and have urged my family and friends to watch it! Even if it doesn’t necessarily prompt everyone to become vegan, I think it’s important for people to face, acknowledge and be accountable for their actions, and the real consequences their dietary choices have on the world around them. This film helps lift the veil of denial that so many people exist in, when it comes to the impact of our food choices. And hopefully, Seaspiracy helps the viewer understand that for every can of tuna they eat, hundreds of other marine lives were also killed in the process.
That said, one challenging aspect of promoting this film right now is the prominent focus it places on Asian commercial fishing operations and food cultures. More than half the film focuses on practices in Japan, Hong Kong, China, and Thailand. Given the current, horrifying surge of anti-Asian racism, hate crimes and violence, it is important to understand that although the film focuses on this region, the market for fish consumption is global, and the assault on ocean wildlife is global too. No single country, culture, or region is to blame. To a viewer already inclined toward racist hegemony, they might take away that “Chinese fishing boats are the problem,” rather than attend to the universal critique the film makes against the commercial fishing industry as a whole.
Seaspiracy is graphic, in parts. It certainly does not shy away from showing footage of violent murders of these animals, including whales and dolphins. It’s difficult to watch at times, and I was brought to tears more than once. But it makes rational arguments too, with clear data to demonstrate the increasing loss of ocean life and habitats due to commercial fishing.
I encourage everyone to not only watch the film, but to further reflect on how your actions and food choices may be contributing to the extinction of ocean life on our planet, even within our lifetimes. As the collective environmental consciousness awakens across all humanity, now is the imperative time to correct course; to rise up as stewards and protectors of life in all forms!