The holes in the net: the inaccuracies and controversies surrounding Seaspiracy
Siobhan observes the convergence of exaggeration and cinematographic shock to garner support for reducing fish consumption. But is misinformation a worthy cost?
Netflix recently released a documentary called ‘Seaspiracy’. The documentary directed by Ali Tabrizi has shocked audiences around the world with its graphic depiction of the commerical fishing industry. Its impact hits like a horrific action film, ominous music looms over shots of boats heading to sea. Quick cuts flick between images of fish blood gushing into the ocean, plastic strangling marine life and shots of the oceanic world being desecrated by mass fishing practices.
Throughout the film we are led by the young Kent born director. Tabrizi’s passion and immense devotion to the preservation of Oceanic life is enthralling, and his yearning to discover the ‘truth’ has captured and convinced viewers around the world. While it is undeniable that plastic pollution is harming the aquatic ecosystems, and that the fishing industry does contribute to the depleting numbers or marine life, Tabrizi’s film like all other forms of information must be interrogated.
The documentary makes bold claims, such as if we don’t stop our fish consumption immediately, the sea will be emptied by 2048. It is hard not to be captured by this rhetoric, the stomach churning reality of the consequence of human industrialisation immediately lay me down to an immense guilt and sense of shame. Backed by celebrities, making headlines across the world, blowing up Twitter, it is undeniable that the documentary has achieved what it wanted to do. Tabrizi cast his line, hooked his audience, and pulled them into the vegan net.
I am not, for one instance, suggesting that we are not in the midst of a plastic pollution crisis. Or that limiting our fish intake, monitoring our plastic usage and looking for sustainable alternatives isn’t the lifestyle route we should all be taking.
However, the documentary has significant gaps and has come under heavy accusations of misinformation. Professor Christina Hicks, who was featured in the film tweeted “unnerving to discover your cameo in a film slamming an industry you love & have committed your career to”. Not only are there outcries from people featured in the film, but marine experts such as Dr Bryce Stewart a fisheries biologist claims this film as the “worst kind of journalism” one which “exaggerates and makes links where there aren’t any”.
Tabrizi cast his line, hooked his audience, and pulled them into the vegan net.
The film accomplishes many things, but through shock tactics, has laid complete accuracy to one side to effectively touch the emotional strings of its viewer. It seems to have approached the issues with a lens that had its message set. A less investigative lens, being it more a film of persuasion.
What is striking is that not once throughout the entire documentary is one local interviewed. Instead the faces of Japanese fishermen and West African crew ships are cast into the role of villains. And the hero to this narrative? The predominantly white advocacy and action groups.
Moreover, Tabrizi’s film seems to play right into the Anti-Asian sentiment which has spread due to the current pandemic. The film seems to bat right into that court, strengthening the negative stereotypes and laying another coat of blame onto the Asian communities’ shoulders. Yes, Japan does have high rates of fishing and a deeply questionable history in terms of the whale and shark fin industry. But Tabrizi seems to navigate this issue with a lack of balance, depicting the white led groups like Sea Shepherd as the only ‘good guys’.
The film, in many respects, essentially simplifies the immense issue of overfishing and plastic pollution to simply ‘don’t eat fish’. But what Tabrizi doesn’t add is that to simply not eat fish is to bring to a grinding stop an industry that sustains billions of people. That the consumption of fish and fishing practices are deeply ingrained within many cultures across the world.
The fishing industry and its endeavour for sustainability is deeply complex and intersectional. Casting such linear boundaries between who is good and bad, moral and immoral life choices is to, if anything, add to the issue.
Netflix film is a gripping and undeniably well assembled piece of work, and it does address pertinent issues. But we should all stop and think before we strike seafood out of our diets.