Netflix's 'Seaspiracy': Viewers React to Commercial Fishing Industry Exposé
In his latest documentary, 27-year-old British filmmaker Ali Tabrizi calls out the commercial fishing industry for harming the oceans in the pursuit of fish. Since its release, the polarizing film has gone viral and climbed to Netflix's top ten across the globe. The exposé has sparked countless questions about and investigation into the seafood industry's claims and practices.
Tabrizi opens the film with scenes from his childhood. His love of the ocean came from watching orcas and dolphins perform in marine theme parks. As an adult, he came to understand the harm associated with captive mammals. The storyline quickly progresses to cover mass dolphin killing in Taiji, Japan along with overfishing for tuna. Everything is connected, and the chain of destruction goes on until "the documentary loses its shock factor" because "the bleak statistics cease to surprise," reported The Independent. The message is clear: "we are destroying sea life at rapid speed."
Seaspiracy alleges that overfishing for tuna helps keep demand and prices high. Netflix
In the film, Sylvia Earle, famed marine biologist and ocean explorer, warns that since humans excel at extracting enormous amounts of marine life from the sea, commercial fishing itself will go extinct because eventually there will be no fish left.
A Thrillist review said Seaspiracy connects all of the dots between commercial fishing, ocean destruction and slavery with a "wobbly line" and the "indictment of the myth of sustainability."
With each new scene, Tabrizi reveals the fraud, corruption and greed currently destroying the oceans. Through figures and expert cameos, he claims:
- Discarded plastic fishing gear accounts for most ocean debris and is killing whales and other animals;
- The oceans will be emptied of fish in 27 years;
- Safe seafood labels are compromised by "pay-to-play" profit structures and lack enforcement;
- Overfishing is more damaging to the environment than deforestation;
- Farmed fish are disease-ridden, pollution-creating and resource-intensive;
- Thai fishing fleets use slave labor to remain profitable;
- "Sustainable seafood" is a myth; and
- The only solution is to stop eating fish.
Shark bycatch is seen being dumped overboard in West Africa. Sea Shepherd
Tabrizi's takeaway is a scathing condemnation of the multibillion-dollar seafood industry and the governments, groups and companies complicit with the ocean's destruction. Seaspiracy calls for a collective shift away from eating seafood and toward vegan and plant-based alternatives.
"The amount of fish being taken out of the ocean is absolutely stunning — five million fish a minute," Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Founder Capt. Paul Watson told EcoWatch. "We're strip-mining life from the sea. There is no sustainable fishery anywhere on the planet."
The marine conservation organization, known and sometimes criticized for its direct action techniques, features prominently in Tabrizi's film. Tabrizi films from Sea Shepherd ships as they confront an illegal Chinese fishing vessel and encounter starving artisanal fishers in West Africa who have lost their jobs and food source to industrial fisheries.
When asked if the state of the oceans is as dire as depicted in Seaspiracy, Watson told EcoWatch, "I think it's actually worse than presented in this film. For the most part, these problems are out of sight, out of mind. And, if the ocean dies, we die."
The Sea Shepherd fleet of ships patrols the world's waters. Thomas Le / Sea Shepherd
To date, millions have watched the documentary, and reactions from viewers and marine organizations run the gamut.
"I think it was a brilliant film," Watson said. "It's the first opportunity to get the message out about what's happening in our oceans. Many people are being confronted with information that they never paid attention to before."
One Twitter user agreed, saying, "So modern fishing with nets large enough to sweep up cathedrals is wiping out ocean ecosystems which we rely on to regulate the planet. We are literally killing ourselves...." Another user urged, "Do watch it if you care about oceans/fish. I'm gonna stop eating fish, starting today. A must watch."
Critics of the film have also been vocal, denouncing the underlying facts presented, the film's possible vegan agenda and its reductionist and sensationalist approach, Global Aquaculture Alliance reported. The New York Times likened the tone to "a cheap imitation of hard-hitting investigative journalism" full of "conspiratorial thinking." Some accused the film of perpetuating a "white savior complex," The Independent reported.
Leading seafood certification group Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a target throughout the documentary, refused Tabrizi's numerous interview requests. After the documentary's release, MSC agreed that, "There is a crisis in our oceans, and an urgent need to end overfishing." The organization also rebutted, "... it is wrong to claim that there is no such thing [as] sustainable fishing and that the only solution is to stop eating fish. Some of the problems that the film highlights — bycatch, overfishing and destruction of marine ecosystems — are precisely the issues the MSC certification process is designed to address."
Sea Shepherd Founder Paul Watson considers commercial fishing the biggest threat to the future of the oceans. Sea Shepherd
Mark J. Palmer, who is connected to the Earth Island Institute, the firm that manages the "dolphin-safe" label for tuna, is featured in a pivotal scene in the film. On camera, Tabrizi asks Palmer whether he can guarantee that all tuna cans labeled dolphin-safe caused no harm to dolphins. The latter responds, "Nope. Nobody can," and justifies his answer by saying, "Once you're out there in the ocean, how do you know what [fishermen are] doing? We have observers onboard — observers can be bribed and are not out on a regular basis."
Palmer has since tried to dampen his statement and suggests that Seaspiracy took his remarks out of context, IntraFish, a seafood news site, reported. Newsweek fact-checked the film's claims and Palmer's defenses and concluded that "[b]ased on comments made by the Earth Island Institute and other experts, it is not possible to say whether all canned tuna that is labeled 'dolphin-friendly' is guaranteed to have not harmed dolphins in the fishing process."
Regardless of whether or not they are fans of the film, most conservationists and scientists agree that the oceans matter in the fight against the climate crisis, both for providing food security for millions worldwide along with protecting cultural ways of life.
According to The Guardian, Callum Roberts, a marine conservationist featured in Seaspiracy, offered this conclusion for the film's critics: "My colleagues may rue the statistics, but the basic thrust of it is we are doing a huge amount of damage to the ocean and that's true. At some point, you run out. Whether it's 2048 or 2079, the question is: 'Is the trajectory in the wrong direction or the right direction?'"
France moved one step closer this weekend to banning short-haul flights in an attempt to fight the climate crisis.
A bill prohibiting regional flights that could be replaced with an existing train journey of less than two and a half hours passed the country's National Assembly late on Saturday, as Reuters reported.
"We know that aviation is a contributor of carbon dioxide and that because of climate change we must reduce emissions," Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told Europe 1 radio, according to Reuters.
The measure now has to pass the French Senate, then return to the lower house for a final vote. It would end regional flights between Paris's Orly airport and cities like Nantes and Bordeaux, The Guardian explained. It would not, however, impact connecting flights through Paris's Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport.
The bill is part of a legislative package which aims to reduce France's emissions by 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2030, Reuters reported. It is a watered-down version of a proposal suggested by France's Citizens' Convention on Climate, BBC News explained. This group, which was formed by President Emmanuel Macron in 2019 and included 150 ordinary citizens, had put forward a ban on flights that could be replaced with an existing train journey of under four hours.
However, the journey length was lowered after protests from KLM-Air France, which had suffered heavy losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, and regions who were concerned about being left out of national transit networks, as The Guardian explained.
"We have chosen two and a half hours because four hours risks isolating landlocked territories including the greater Massif Central, which would be iniquitous," transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said, as The Guardian reported.
However, some environmental and consumer groups objected to the changes. The organization UFC-Que Choisir compared plane routes with equivalent train journeys of under four hours and found that the plane trips emitted an average of 77 times more carbon dioxide per passenger than the train journeys. At the same time, the train alternatives were cheaper and only as much as 40 minutes longer.
"[T]he government's choice actually aims to empty the measure of its substance," the group said, according to The Guardian.
The new measure also opens the French government to charges of hypocrisy. It bailed out Air France-KLM to the tune of a seven-billion euro loan last year, though it did require the airline to drop some domestic routes as a condition. Then, days before the measure passed, it more than doubled its stake in the airline, BBC News reported. However, Pannier-Runacher insisted to Europe 1 radio that it was possible to balance fighting climate change and supporting struggling businesses.
"Equally, we must support our companies and not let them fall by the wayside," she said, as Reuters reported.
This is not the first time that climate measures and aviation bailouts have coincided in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Austrian Airlines replaced its Vienna-Salzburg flight with additional train service after it received government money dependent on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, BBC News reported.
The number of flights worldwide declined almost 42 percent in 2020 when compared with 2019. It is expected that global aviation may not fully recover until 2024, according to Reuters.
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Four gray whales have washed up dead near San Francisco within nine days, and at least one cause of death has been attributed to a ship strike.
More whales than usual have been washing up dead since 2019, and the West Coast gray whale population continues to suffer from an unusual mortality event, defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as "a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response."
"It's alarming to respond to four dead gray whales in just over a week because it really puts into perspective the current challenges faced by this species," Dr. Pádraig Duignan, director of pathology at the Marine Mammal Center, said in a press release.
As the world's largest marine mammal hospital, the Sausalito-based center has been investigating the recent spate of deaths. The first involved a 41-foot female who washed up dead at San Francisco's Crissy Field on March 31, SFGate reported. The cause of death remains a mystery, as the whale was in good condition with a full stomach. The second, another female, washed up on April 3 at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve on Moss Beach.
"That animal's cause of death, we suspect, was ship strike," the Marine Mammal Center's Giancarlo Rulli told SFGate. "Our plan is to eventually head back out to that whale and take more samples."
The third whale washed up April 7 near Berkeley Marina, The AP reported. The center determined it was a 37-foot male in average condition, with no evidence of illness or injury.
A 41-foot female turned up the next day on Marin County's Muir Beach. She suffered bruising and hemorrhaging around the jaw and neck vertebrae, indicating a vessel strike.
Vessel strikes are one of the leading causes of death for gray whales examined by the Marine Mammal Center, along with entanglements in fishing gear and malnutrition. While the species is not endangered, the population has declined by 25 percent since last assessed in 2016, CNN reported.
West Coast gray whales travel 10,000 miles every year between Mexico and the Arctic, according to The AP. They spend the winter breeding off of Baja California, and feed along the California coast in spring and summer on their way back north. The Marine Mammal Center began noticing a problem for the migrating whales in 2019.
"Our team hasn't responded to this number of dead gray whales in such a short span since 2019 when we performed a startling 13 necropsies in the San Francisco Bay Area," Dr. Duignan said in the press release.
The 2019 deaths led NOAA to declare an unusual mortality event for West Coast gray whales. It is similar to another event that happened from 1999 to 2000, after which the whales' numbers rebounded to even higher levels. This suggests population dips and rises may not be uncommon for the species. However, it is also possible that the climate crisis is playing a role. The 2019 deaths were linked to malnutrition, and warmer waters can reduce the amount of food whales have to eat in the Arctic, giving them less energy for their migration, CNN explained. Overfishing can also play a role in depriving whales of food, the Marine Mammal Center said.
Dr. Jeff Boehm, Marine Mammal Center CEO and veterinarian, told CNN that he had observed an uptick in shipping traffic after the pandemic caused a slowdown. At the same time, the center is less able to conduct research because of COVID-19 safety precautions. And even in the best of times, only around 10 percent of dead whales wash up on shore, The AP reported.
"This many dead whales in a week is shocking, especially because these animals are the tip of the iceberg," Kristen Monsell, legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Oceans program, told The AP.
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About 70% of the buildings in Kalbarri were damaged and tens of thousands are without power by winds gusting over 100 miles per hour. Climate change, caused by humans' extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, is making cyclonic storms more extreme by increasing air and ocean temperatures, which effectively supercharges the storms.
"You just thought, this is it. I would have thought that when we opened the door, that there would be nothing around us except that roof," Kalbarri resident Debbie Major told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "We are a small town. Half of it has been flattened." Seroja devastated regions of Indonesia and Timor-Leste last week, where it triggered deadly flash floods and landslides.
#CycloneSeroja: homes & units before & after the cyclone hit #Kalbarri, 170kmh gusts causing major damage. #7NEWS https://t.co/WYFL2QOlwB— Paul Kadak (@Paul Kadak)1618186830.0
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By Rishika Pardikar
Search operations are still underway to find those declared missing following the Uttarakhand disaster on 7 February 2021.
"As of now [18 March], we have found 74 bodies and 130 people are still missing," said Swati S. Bhadauria, district magistrate in Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India. Chamoli is the district where a hanging, ice-capped rock broke off from a glacier and fell into a meltwater- and debris-formed lake below. The lake subsequently breached, leading to heavy flooding downstream.
The disaster is attributed to both development policies in the Himalayas and climate change. And as is common with climate-linked disasters, the most vulnerable sections of society suffered the most devastating consequences. Among the most vulnerable in Chamoli are its population of migrant construction workers from states across India.
Of the 204 people dead or missing, only 77 are from Uttarakhand, and "only 11 were not workers of the two dam companies," Bhadauria noted. The two dams referred to are the 13.2-megawatt Rishiganga Hydroelectric Project and the 520-megawatt Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower Plant, which has been under construction since 2005. The flash floods in Chamoli first broke through the Rishiganga project and then, along with debris accumulated there, broke through the Tapovan Vishnugad project 5–6 kilometers downstream.
"Both local people and others from Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh…from all over India work on these two [hydroelectric] projects," said Atul Sati, a Chamoli-based social activist with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation.
Sati noted that the local community suspects the number of casualties from the Uttarakhand disaster may be higher than reported because not all the projects' migrant workers—including those from bordering countries like Nepal—have been accounted for by the construction companies and their subcontractors.
The National Thermal Power Corporation is the state-owned utility that owns the Tapovan Vishnugad project. "NTPC has given building contracts to some companies," Sati explained. "These companies have given subcontracts to other companies. What locals are saying is that there are more [than 204] who are missing. They say there were [migrant] workers from Nepal."
NTPC and the Kundan Group (the corporate owner of the Rishiganga project) have not responded to repeated requests for comment.
No Early-Warning System
"NTPC did not have a proper early-warning system," said Mritunjay Kumar, an employee with the government of the east Indian state of Bihar. Kumar's bother, Manish Kumar, was a migrant worker employed with Om Infra Ltd., an NTPC subcontractor. On the day of the disaster, Manish was working in one of the silt flushing tunnels of the Tapovan project and lost his life in the flooding.
Mritunjay Kumar noted that it "would have taken time" for the floodwater and debris to flow from the meltwater lake to the Rishiganga project and then to the Tapovan project. "Even if workers knew 5 minutes in advance," he said, "lives could have been saved."
An advance notice "would have given [Tapovan] workers at least 5–6 critical minutes," agreed Hridayesh Joshi, an environmental journalist from Uttarakhand who reported from Chamoli after the disaster. "Many people made videos; they shouted and alerted people on site. If there was a robust early-warning system, many more lives could have been saved…even if not all, at least some would have escaped."
"It is true that this was an environmental, climate change driven disaster. But NTPC had not taken any measures to save their workers from such disasters," Kumar said. "They [NTPC] hadn't even installed emergency exits for tunnel workers. The only proper exit was a road which faces the river. If NTPC had installed a few temporary iron staircases, many people could have climbed out."
Kumar noted that the Tapovan project has been under construction since before the 2013 Kedarnath disaster, in which more than 5,000 people lost their lives as rainfall-driven floods ravaged northern India. "If they [NTPC] knew that such disasters will happen, why didn't they install early-warning systems?" Kumar asked. "Scientists have been warning about climate change and [dam and road] constructions in the Himalayas from a very long time. Obviously, NTPC was aware."
This story originally appeared in Eos and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
Biden Refuses to Shut Down Dakota Access Pipeline, Despite Campaign Pledges on Tribal Relations and Climate
By Jessica Corbett
Indigenous leaders and climate campaigners on Friday blasted President Joe Biden's refusal to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline during a court-ordered environmental review, which critics framed as a betrayal of his campaign promises to improve tribal relations and transition the country to clean energy.
"Biden's inaction to protect our fragile ecosystems, natural resources, traditional medicines, and Indigenous rights is a clear sign that this administration is the exact opposite of the climate leadership narrative they promised to lead during his campaign," said Tasina Sapa Win Smith of the Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective.
Brooke Harper, campaign strategist for the environmental group 350.org, declared that "the Biden administration missed a huge opportunity today to take a step towards ensuring a livable future for everyone in this country."
"The Dakota Access Pipeline violates treaty rights and endangers land, water, and communities," Harper said. "The climate crisis is here; we can no longer afford to build polluting, dangerous fossil fuel pipelines and delay a just transition to 100% clean energy. In solidarity with Indigenous water protectors, we call on President Joe Biden to stop the Dakota Access pipeline, Line 3, and all new fossil fuel projects immediately. If Biden wants to be a climate leader on the world stage, he needs to start at home."
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, who ordered the environmental impact assessment last year, held a hearing Friday afternoon so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could provide an update on whether the Biden administration planned to allow the pipeline known as DAPL to continue operating without a federal permit.
After Ben Schifman, an attorney for the government, shared that the Army Corps of Engineers would not shut down the pipeline at this time but "is essentially in a continuous process of evaluating," Boasberg granted the 10-day continuance. The DC-based judge is expected to decide whether he will order DAPL to shut down by April 19.
The pipeline carries oil from North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, to Illinois. Although the project was denied permission to cross beneath Lake Oahe on unceded ancestral tribal lands by former President Barack Obama — under whom Biden was vice president — former President Donald Trump swiftly reversed course and allowed the project to proceed.
Indigenous water protectors and environmentalists have been fighting against the pipeline for years — opposition that's been met with forceful crackdowns by private security and law enforcement. Since it began operating in 2017, DAPL and the communities through which it runs have been plagued by repeated leaks.
The climate crisis is the greatest threat we face as a nation and a planet. Today I led a letter with… https://t.co/2PuYkQChxE— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Rep. Ilhan Omar)1618001676.0
"For hundreds of years, our people have faced unwelcome and deadly incursions upon our homelands," said Phyllis Young, Standing Rock organizer for the Lakota People's Law Project and former tribal liaison to the Oceti Sakowin protest camp. "Today's decision is disappointing and demonstrates a lack of understanding by Washington politicians for Indigenous sovereignty."
"We will do our very best to see this pipeline removed, our water protected, and our sacred lands healed," Young said. "We will replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. One bad decision can't change that. We're dedicated to providing a better future for the generations to come. We've been fighting for our lives for centuries, and we aren't going to stop now."
Chairman Mike Faith of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said Friday that "we are gravely concerned about the continued operation of this pipeline, which poses an unacceptable risk to our sovereign nation."
"In a meeting with members of Biden's staff earlier this year, we were told that this new administration wanted to 'get this right,'" Faith noted. "Unfortunately, today's update from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows it has chosen to ignore our pleas and stick to the wrong path."
Joye Braun, an Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) DAPL frontline organizer and citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Nation, said that "it is imperative that the Biden administration shut down DAPL now."
"The Army Corps of Engineers should not twist the rule of law to favor big oil interests and further spit on the nation-to-nation relationship between tribal nations and the U.S. government," Braun continued. "The Biden administration needs to do the right thing and stop this illegal pipeline."
"Why allow something illegal to continue?" Braun asked. "Set the example, honor the treaties, and show that the rule of law is greater than oil corporate interests. We will no longer accept being the sacrificial lamb for corporate raping of our Mother Earth and her water."
According to CNN, Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who has represented Standing Rock in its legal challenge against DAPL for several years, called the administration's inaction on Friday "a continuation of a terrible history."
"This pipeline is unsafe and operating in violation of federal law. Meanwhile, Energy Transfer is seeking to double capacity, which would make DAPL twice as dangerous," Hasselman added in a statement, referring to one of the pipeline's owners. "Yet the Biden administration's decision here is to do nothing."
"It's hard to see how we'll ever transition away from fossil fuels or show the rest of the world that we're serious about tackling climate change, if we are just going to shrug and look away when the fossil fuel industry brazenly ignores tribal concerns and tramples our federal environmental laws and safety regulations," the attorney said.
We are not backing down, @JoeBiden. We will #ShutdownDAPL. Respect us, or expect us.— Indigenous Environmental Network (@Indigenous Environmental Network)1617997041.0
"The Leaders Summit on Climate will underscore the urgency — and the economic benefits — of stronger climate action," said a White House statement about the event. "It will be a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow."
In a statement Friday, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune noted that "Biden campaigned and was elected on the boldest climate platform ever. Minutes after being sworn in, Biden began taking real, meaningful climate action. Less than a week into office, the president issued a memorandum on strengthening tribal consultation."
"Yet, President Biden's actions today fail to live up to the climate and tribal commitments he made," Brune said, adding that the decision to not shut down DAPL doesn't align "with the bold action he has taken since taking office."
"The Dakota Access Pipeline is a dirty, dangerous, illegally constructed pipeline that has continued to threaten tribal sovereignty and our collective right to clean water and a healthy, sustainable climate," he said. "Continued and expanded reliance on crude oil is not compatible with the president's own climate commitments, including the ones we expect him to make in weeks' time at his climate summit."
"The climate crisis demands that President Biden and his administration seize every opportunity to confront it," he concluded. "Today's decision is deeply disappointing, and we expect the courts to rightfully put an end to the Dakota Access Pipeline, just as we expect the president's future actions to meet his rhetoric and commitments."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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