The Case of Seaspiracy
By Tamara Kaňuchová | June 12, 2021
Cover Illustration: Protect the ocean. Anabella Villanueva / The Amsterdammer
Seaspiracy is one of the most popular Netflix documentaries at the moment. While we, The Amsterdammer, are advocates for green initiatives and protecting our beautiful oceans, we want to equip you with tools to make your own decisions when it comes to believing trendy documentaries.
You have probably already heard of the 2021 documentary Seaspiracy by Ali Tabrizi, even if just by way of the “they missed out on calling it Conspirasea” memes swarming the internet. In addition to this failed pun, the documentary has also drawn attention in the form of strong criticism due to certain inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the data used. It polarized audiences: on the one hand, some people stopped eating fish completely, while others zoomed in on the documentary’s factual errors in order to defend “helpless” companies that they believe have been unjustly accused. Since it was created to appeal to the average Netflix user, I found it interesting to see the conversation and scrutinization of information by the general public. I wondered: How fast do we lose interest, and why do we need information to be put so emotionally and dramatically just to start caring about a topic? How long will this wave of self-banning fish consumption last for the average viewer?
Seaspiracy at its core has addressed some important issues. Tabrizi tackles the practices of commercial fishing, and aims to highlight its environmental consequences.The documentary is further critical of organisations that use the term “sustainable fishing”, calling them out for greenwashing their environmentally unfriendly actions. Overfishing, bycatch fishing and unjust working conditions in this industry are some of the problems it addresses. Overfishing is when more fish are caught than can be reproduced in nature, leading to an imbalance of the population density. Meanwhile bycatch is when different species than the one they intended to catch get dragged into the net, subsequently killing them even though no one will buy them. It also points out the use of long fishing lines upto 80 kilometers long for bottom trawling, which destroys the seafloor. This is what we as consumers support when we buy traditionally caught fish.
So what did people dislike about Seaspiracy? Scientists are accusing the movie of cherry-picking information to fit a certain narrative, as well as of using outdated statistics that have since been corrected. For more on the specifics, I recommend this article and this post on Instagram. The general unpopularity also stems from the trend when activists guilt-trip people to urge them to make an immediate and drastic change in behavior. My advice to anyone in doubt about what to think and what steps you can actually take is to conduct your own research. You support companies with your own money, so you might want to choose wisely.
I would like to end this article with a quote by Captain Paul Watson, one of the founders of Greenpeace and later Sea Shepherd: “If you want to address climate change, the first thing you do is protect the ocean. And the solution to that is very simple: leave it alone.”
“If you want to address climate change, the first thing you do is protect the ocean. And the solution to that is very simple: leave it alone.” – Paul Watson