Marine life could disappear from the oceans by 2048. The frightening conclusion of the 2006 study was based on the assumption that consumption and overfishing would maintain the rhythm of the time. Fifteen years later, little has changed.
This is also one of the conclusions of the new Netflix documentary released on Wednesday March 24th. Surprise: It’s not a documentary about a mysterious crime the producer has already gotten us used to, but it’s a serious crime he speaks of nonetheless.
“Seaspiracy: Unsustainable Fishing” is conducted by the young British activist and filmmaker Ali Tabrizi, who sought answers in the face of the destruction of the oceans. In just over an hour and a half, the uncovered data and dangerous connections reveal an opaque and utterly devastating industry.
The story begins with the indiscriminate slaughter of dolphins and whales, primarily responsible for fertilizing marine plants, which, according to the International Monetary Fund, produce up to 85 percent of all oxygen we breathe – four times more than the rainforest produced by the Amazon. However, hunting endangers the entire ecosystem.
Even before the premiere, the documentary caused a shock in the fishing industry, which immediately began to prepare its response for production. In internal documents published by Plant Based News, the National Fisheries Institute – a commercial organization representing the North American fishing industry – describes the documentary as a “dishonest attack”.
“To mislead an industry that serves millions of healthy meals and employs 1.7 million Americans and is unacceptable and dishonest,” they wrote in an internal letter before revealing communications campaign preparation to “address the lack of accuracy of Combat Netflix ‘representation and underscore facts “.
Tabrizi went around the world looking for answers and was often persecuted, threatened and prevented from filming, sometimes by fishermen, sometimes by government officials. In Japan, where he was trying to follow the Taiji dolphin massacre, he was told that the practice was being protected by mafia associations and the police.
The internet is being dismantled from the interests of water parks that buy species that are the result of poaching by millionaire industries that ignore overfishing. But there are some shocking revelations from the documentary that promise to bring more answers to consumers while it will anger many organizations, especially those who claim to be defending and protecting the oceans.
Don’t believe the labels
To catch eight tuna, a boat killed 45 dolphins. And this ship worked for a company with a Dolphin Safe certificate, says Sea Sheperd, the NGO that works to preserve the oceans.
This is a label that guarantees or should guarantee that the product the consumer is purchasing has not caused any deaths in the dolphin population, the usual collateral victims of fishing boats. It is estimated that around 300,000 whales and dolphins die each year as secondary victims of the fishing industry.
It turns out that despite the relief the label can bring to consumers, the truth is that no one can guarantee that no dolphin was actually killed when this fish was caught. And who says that it is the person in charge of the company that issues the certificates, the Earth Island Institute.
“No. That is impossible,” replied Mark J. Palmer, asking if he could guarantee that dolphins were not killed while fishing for products sold under this label. “When you are at sea, how do you know what they are doing “We have observers on board, but they can be bribed,” observers who are rarely present.
Thousands of dolphins die as collateral victims of overfishing
A former member revealed a conflict of interest and accused the Earth Island Institute of “fraud”. However, this isn’t the only organization that issues certificates that reassure consumers while being accused of doing nothing to protect the oceans.
Another target of the investigation was the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), one of the largest certification groups for sustainability, which guarantees that their label is only supplied to companies that adhere to strict rules.
It then turns out that many of the MSC-certified companies are responsible for thousands of collateral deaths from species like whales and dolphins – but that the number of victims is viewed as sustainable. “People want to know that no other fish or seabird was killed to put that fish on their plate. Sometimes the label on the can is worthless, ”says oceanographer Callum Roberts.
The organization for the sustainability of fisheries, which consistently declined requests for interviews to speak on the subject, was founded in 1995 by the World Wildlife Fund and Unilever, the multinational that also invests in the resale of fish and is therefore part of MSC a ” Conflict of Interest “.
More revealing is MSC’s business model, which in the documentation largely depends on the money for the labeling. More than 80 percent of the organization’s revenue comes directly from the fishing industry in exchange for the seal that certifies its products as sustainable fishing.
There is no sustainable fishing
“I have searched a lot for an example of large scale marine life that is sustainable. It doesn’t exist, ”says the famous marine biologist Sylvia Earle. Tabrizi put the question to a number of personalities, from sustainability organizations to the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. Nobody could give a specific answer.
“There is no such thing as sustainable fishing. There is no fish that arrives to be made sustainable, ”guarantees Paul Watson, Sea Sheperd’s founder. “Everything is sustainable these days. It’s just a promotional phrase. “
It goes even further to ensure that many of the organizations that guarantee the defense of the environment do not speak out against the consumption of fish or meat for fear of losing many of their supporters. “A lot of these groups don’t want to solve the problem, they want to investigate. Environmentalists, conservation groups. It’s an industry, a welfare industry. “
“Sustainability has no concrete definition”, guarantees Maria-José Cornax from Oceana, one of the largest marine conservation organizations. “Consumers cannot currently judge what is sustainable and what is not sustainable (…). The consumer cannot make an informed decision. “
Karmenu Vella, the EU commissioner responsible for the fisheries portfolio, defined sustainability using an example of economic savings. “We cannot go to extremes and say, ‘The only solution is not to fish at all’. We can’t do that. “
One of the solutions presented is almost always aquaculture. It is sold as an industry with only benefits in that it does not cause collateral deaths, does not suffer from illegal fishing, does not damage maritime soils, and poses no risk to endangered species. But the truth is that it is far from being a good example of a sustainable industry.
At the outset, Tabrizi argues that making one kilogram of salmon may require 1.2 kilograms of feed, which in this case is mainly made from other fish. And therefore the balance will always be negative: it will always be necessary to catch more fish in order to produce fewer fish.
These aquaculture farms are spread around the world and already account for around 50 percent of the fish consumed worldwide. But not everything in this industry is clean and environmentally friendly.
One of the biggest problems with this aquaculture is not just the pollution they cause, in the form of organic debris scattered across the oceans. In Scottish productions, Tabrizi found that they are regularly affected by lice infestation, infectious diseases or anemia, which kill about 50 percent of the fish growing there. It is described as a “waste of resources” by an environmentalist.
There was one more secret to be revealed: the salmon produced in aquaculture has white meat, and to make it more attractive to consumers, a color is added to the feed. The producer can then choose the tone of his salmon meat like from a color catalog.
The plastics lie
In addition to fishing, plastic is another major threat to the oceans. There are campaigns everywhere: They urge us to stop using plastic straws. Synthetic fiber clothing; the end of the disposable packaging. It turns out that the main source of plastic pollution may not be in these everyday items, but sends us back to the fishing industry.
“Even the groups that talk about plastic in the oceans hesitate to explain what makes up the bulk of that plastic: that they fish nets and gear,” reveals journalist and environmentalist George Monbiot. And he explains that they make up 46 percent of the infamous Pacific Plastic Island, which is far more dangerous to marine life than tiny cotton swabs. “They are materials that were made to kill.”
What Tabrizi found was that most of the organizations promoting the end of plastics and protecting the oceans were more focused on promoting the end of the use of chewing gum and other small items – but without embracing the fishing industry and plastic mention pollution from equipment and nets on the high seas. It also shows that the famous plastic straws only make up 0.03 percent of the plastic that ends up in the oceans.
Fishing nets are deadly
One of the major organizations fighting this scourge is the Plastic Pollution Coalition. In an interview, they first denied that most of the plastic waste consisted of fishing material. They would end up suggesting that one of the ways to stop this pollution is to “eliminate or reduce fish consumption” and come back immediately.
In the face of a visibly nervous CEO, the interview ended immediately. “I’m not interested in focusing on that. I do not have an opinion. “
There was another reason for the rejection: The Plastic Pollution Coalition, according to Tabrizi, is a project of the Earth Island Institute, the same organization that sells Dolphin Safe certificates, which they do not guarantee themselves, but which allow the industry to sell its Products to consumers under the guise of sustainability.
“It makes perfect sense to say that we should use less plastic. But if we didn’t throw a single gram of plastic into the oceans from now on, we would continue to destroy ecosystems, since the main problem is commercial fishing, ”concludes Monbiot.