“Seaspiracy” Takes a Dive Into the Depths of the Fishing Industry

Love seafood? Well, you won’t like this… 

Ali Tabrizi’s most recent Netflix documentary “Seaspiracy,” released on March 21, exposes the dark underbelly of the global fishing industry and its almost incomprehensibly negative impact on the world’s oceans. “Seaspiracy” follows filmmaker Tabrizi as he treks across the globe, lurking in the shadows to uncover corruption and exploitation in the fishing industry. 

Along the way, the documentary displays no shortage of disturbing imagery. In one of “Seaspiracy’s” first shots, Tabrizi films the cruel act of dolphin hunting in Japan, where whaling has once again been legalized. Tabrizi also includes shots of whaling and fishing peppered with interviews of several activists who reveal that many of the organizations meant to protect the sea are funded by the very industries that deplete them. 

The documentary makes many shocking claims about the fishing industry. For example, marine biologist Callum Roberts says that the fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico destroyed more wildlife in one day than the 2010 British Petroleum (BP) oil spill managed in months. In fact, marine life partly benefited during the spill because fishing had to cease for fear that what was caught would be tainted by oil. 

Another surprising fact that the documentary reveals is that discarded fishing nets account for 46 percent of the Pacific Ocean nets, meaning that the fishing industry’s contributions to ocean pollution is comparable to that of all other trash created by humans. Sea turtles are largely endangered from fishing, not plastic. And the dolphin-safe tuna labels — indicators that a tuna brand has complied with U.S. fishing laws meant to protect dolphins — are in reality largely used by organizations which benefit in some way from dolphin hunting and from promoting the fishing industry as a whole, meaning that the label does not carry the weight that consumers think it does. 

All of these revelations support the film’s argument that we should stop eating seafood because we are funding our own demise by doing so. Nonetheless, these important facts are sometimes undercut by the documentary’s amateurish style — Tabrizi describes himself as a “wannabe Jacques Cousteau.” Tabrizi often makes cheesy remarks, such as “I had to follow the money,” and includes clearly staged shots of himself discovering a fishing vessel in an attempt to mimic hard-hitting journalism. And he spends so much time hopping from one destination (and one line of thought) to the next that the documentary can feel haphazard and unfocused. 

On a smaller scale, Tabrizi’s documentary commits other blunders that further weaken the effect of his argument. For example, some of the graphics he uses look like they would be more at home in the mockumentary series “Documentary Now!” These aspects of the documentary combine to make the message come across as more sloppy and conspiratorial, at times making it more difficult for the viewer to trust Tabrizi’s authority. 

However, this does not make the documentary’s commentary on the fishing industry any less distressing. Other than exposing the Dolphin Safe Tuna label, Ali Tabrizi reveals the disastrous effects of the fishing industry on wildlife from bottom trawling to over-fishing. Tabrizi also makes it clear that fish are vital to coral reefs, air quality and millions of people on earth. And alarmingly, 90 percent of the fish that have resided in some areas for millennia have disappeared. But his solution to the problem — to stop eating seafood — isn’t a very sustainable plan for the millions of people for whom fish is a cheap staple. Tabrizi completely ignores viable reforms to the industry and instead argues that the best way to minimize the fishing industry’s footprint is to eliminate it altogether. 

Tabrizi’s exposé offers an eye-opening look into one of the biggest industries in the world. However, as important as the subject is, if Tabrizi wants people to take his message seriously, he should perhaps invest in some better design, check how he represents the facts and offer more realistic solutions. There is a lot of urgency surrounding these issues, but no skeptics are going to be convinced by a film that only focuses on conspiratorial methods for delivering crucial facts. If nothing else, “Seaspiracy” opens your eyes to a global problem, but it leaves much to be desired regarding global solutions.