One Ocean, One Planet title image with photo of model in white dress looking out to sea

Written by Katie Elizabeth Robinson

If you still haven’t got round to watching Seaspiracy yet, you’ll likely have at least heard of the outcry it sparked. If not, you’re in for a treat today as we ponder why the Netflix documentary caused such outrage ahead of World Ocean Day tomorrow.

Let’s start by admitting it’s a very dramatic piece of filmmaking. Instantly you know what you're in for as an anonymous speaker tells the camera, “If you’re scared of dying, go home”. It’s reminiscent of the crime documentaries that avid Netflix audiences absorbed during lockdowns. Thus, we know from the start that this is a sensationalised source and must be reviewed as such. Sensationalism has its flaws particularly as it can often drown out other narratives but it doesn’t make the whole film wrong and unworthy of our attention as some of the critics called for. 

Seaspiracy comes from filmmakers Ali and Lucy Tabrizi, produced by Kip Andersen who you may know from Cowspiracy (backed by the legendary Leonardo Dicaprio), which similarly received great criticism back in 2014 for the emphasis it placed on the role that industrialised animal agriculture plays in global greenhouse gas emissions. Now, in 2021, Seaspiracy is going after the Commercial Fishing industry and rightly so as it is one of the biggest threats to our planet and even the naysayers agree they got that bit right.

We highly recommend, before quoting any of the facts stated in Seaspiracy, that you do some further digging, as all quizzical minds should, but don’t write this one off entirely because it got some things wrong.

For those statistics that critics are arguing with, we would like to point you in the direction of George Monbiot who directly responds to some of them and analyses their criticism, although he will obviously be biased as he features heavily in the film! For essential balance, check out an expert’s review on the other side via Marine Biologist Mads St Clair’s Seaspiracy stories. The filmmakers have also done a pretty good job of revealing all their sources if you want to dig deep into this one.

Beyond the specifics of data, there is also a distinct lack of indigenous voices in this documentary which is problematic as there are many communities across the world that rely on fish as their main source of protein. However, no film has raised such widespread awareness of the rampant human rights violations practiced by the global commercial fishing industry and the devastating impact it is having on these coastal communities that have thrived for centuries, until today, as overfishing pushes them to risk increasingly dangerous waters just to find fish.

What seems to be the main point of contention is with the film’s clear agenda: give up fish. Anything to do with diet will always be a controversial topic, just as it was when Kip Andersen suggested we give up beef. As Mads St Clair says, it is a complex topic that can’t simply be solved by one solution for all but when critics say the answer isn’t to stop eating fish, it’s as if they think that the near 8 billion people on this planet will all sit down to watch Seaspiracy on Netflix, at the same time, and decide to give up fish the next day. This would obviously have a devastating impact on our land resources and this would also, very obviously, never happen.

  1. 7.87 billion people have not and will not watch Seaspiracy.
  2. Not even all of those who watched the documentary will give up fish.

Whilst it’s not the responsibility of the few who do decide to give up fish alone, overfishing will continue to provide for markets unless demand goes down, our global leaders make revolutionary and uncompromising laws on fishing, or we simply run out of fish. We can’t let the latter happen and we can keep lobbying our world leaders but when we are inundated, and at times overwhelmed, by conflicting narratives on how to protect our planet, sometimes the simplest option is to take action into our own hands and give something up if we can. As the great Dr Sylvia Earle tells us as they wrap up the film:

‘Most of the positive and negative things that bring about change in human civilization start with someone. Someone. No one can do everything but everyone can do something.’

What Seaspiracy’s critics seem to have missed is, whilst the documentary does have an agenda, its actual emphasis is on Ecosystem Thinking which we introduced last week. This is the film’s greatest strength as it highlights that the damage being done across our oceans is a threat to our entire planet and everything in it. Whilst there may be Seven Seas or 5 named oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Southern (Antarctic)), they are all inextricably linked. Therefore, we have one global ocean and as it covers over 70% of the earth’s surface, it’s pretty integral to the health of the rest of our earth.

The OG example for Ecosystem Thinking is phytoplankton: microscopic marine algae. They are responsible for:

  1. Every other breath we take, 
  2. Delivering lifegiving freshwater around the world, 
  3. Sustaining all food chains in the open ocean,
  4. Even helping to regulate global temperatures.

How do such tiny plants do so much? David Attenborough in the High Seas episode of the stunning Our Planet series explains:

‘The stability of life on our planet relies on such connections between different habitats.’

Phytoplankton relies on nutrients from the waste of animals in the open oceans. In turn, it uses these nutrients, along with energy from the sun, to create the basis of all food chains that these animals then rely on. This process of photosynthesis also accounts for 50% of earth’s oxygen, which we can all agree is a pretty handy thing to have around. These tiny geniuses also help form the nuclei needed by clouds to cling to and condense around. As these clouds grow to form colossal formations over the ocean they shield the surface of the earth from the sun, reflecting rays back into space, therefore helping to regulate global temperatures. Ultimately, and all Brits will know this far too well, these clouds travel on the winds across the globe, delivering lifegiving freshwater. Thanks phytoplankton!

It can’t sustain life in the sea through sheer, tiny will power though. It depends on sealife for its own survival so remove any player in nature’s intricate ecosystems and the whole thing can collapse.

That’s precisely what World Ocean Day plans to tackle with their 30x30 campaign which will protect 30% of our ocean by 2030.

‘By supporting 30x30, we can protect our planet’s life support systems – specifically the interconnected issues of ocean, climate, and biodiversity.’

World Ocean Day

We have a lot left to learn about our ocean but we do at least now know of the damage we can inflict upon this vast environment. World Ocean Day has been raising awareness of this and revealing its full wonders since 1992 and we can join in as the whole event once again goes live online tomorrow. Dr Sylvia Earle will be there too! The theme this year focuses on the Life and livelihoods that are sustained by our ocean and celebrates this interconnectivity of the ocean’s role in all of our lives, not just those who directly depend on it for work and sustenance.

Join in and sign the petition to call on world leaders to commit to protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030. Give Seaspiracy a watch to make up your own mind on what actions you can take as an individual and let us know what you thought of it.

If all this talk of the beauty of our ocean has got you planning a trip to the seaside, check out our Summer Collection and head for the coast and don’t forget to send us your snaps by the sea!

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