Netflix’s Seaspiracy might have been given a bashing by countless fishing companies and the New York Times, but the controversial documentary is already among the streaming platform’s top 10 most popular films and TV shows in several countries worldwide.
It’s something of an understatement to say that the documentary does not make for easy viewing.
What have we learned from Netflix’s Seaspiracy?
Originally aiming to expose the effect of plastics in the ocean, filmmakers Ali and Lucy Tabrizi actually found themselves uncovering a far greater issue; the corruption and deceit within the commercial fishing industry.
And so, through a series of interviews conducted with experts and activists – as well as heart wrenching footage of brutal whale hunts, the film paints a sobering picture of the future of the world’s oceans.
Indeed, Seaspiracy claims that:
- Some 2.7 trillion fish are caught worldwide every year – meaning 5 million are killed every minute
- Bluefin tuna have even become critically endangered because of overfishing
- Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year
- At least 300,000 whales and dolphins are killed every year as bycatch, and many more are being hunted down
- Farmed salmon are raised in lice-plagued waters and the fish are “swimming in circles in their own filth”
- The fishing industry relies upon slavery, with many peole forced to work for years under the threat of violence or even death.
- The oceans will be empty of fish in 27 years, and become a barren ocean wasteland – leading to our own extinction
As one of those interviewed by Tabrizi notes in the film: “We are at war with the oceans and, if we win this war, we’re going to lose it all because mankind is not able to live on this planet with a dead sea.”
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Essentially, Seaspiracy dismisses the concept of sustainable seafood entirely, stating that the best action is to abstain from any seafood consumption whatsoever.
And horrified viewers have since flocked to social media, urging followers to take the time to watch the 90-minute film, which was made with the financial backing of Hollywood star and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio.
What are people saying about Netflix’s Seaspiracy?
“I’m not a vegan or vegetarian by any means. But I have been watching the Seaspiracy documentary that just dropped on Netflix and I am going to be cutting seafood out of my diet completely and encouraging others to do the same. The whole industry is completely corrupt,” tweeted one.
Alexandria Villasenor, 15-year-old American climate activist, tweeted: “Tonight I watched Seaspiracy with my family, and I have to say this will change my activism and work from now on. If you can, watch Seaspiracy!”
Another viewer noted: “If finding out that fishing vessels are dragging nets that could fit 13 jumbo jets inside along the sea floor doesn’t make you question what we are doing to this world nothing will!”
Elsewhere, Made in Chelsea’s Lucy Watson said: “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”
Why is Netflix’s Seaspiracy proving controversial?
It’s worth noting that not all who’ve watched the documentary have been enamoured with it.
Filmmaker Ella Van Cleave tweeted: “Recently watched Seaspiracy. Does it call attention to some important issues? Yes. Does it also completely undermine frontline efforts to build sustainable food systems around the world in communities where seafood is historically, culturally and economically important? You bet.”
Elsewhere, research scientist David Schiffman flagged that Christina Hicks, one of the experts quoted in the movie, does not endorse its message.
“If you’re watching Seaspiracy and wondering whether or not to trust it, please consider that one of the few actual experts quoted in the whole movie wasn’t told what the movie was about and does not endorse its message,” Schiffman said.
Hicks herself added: “I’ve a lot to say about Seaspiracy, but won’t. Yes there are issues but also progress and fish remain critical to food and nutrition security in many vulnerable geographies.”
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Meanwhile, the Marine Stewardship Council has released a statement in response to the film.
“There is a crisis in our oceans, and an urgent need to end overfishing. However, it is wrong to claim that there is no such thing as sustainable fishing and that the only solution to stop eating fish,” it claims.
“Some of the problems that the film highlights – bycatch, overfishing and destruction of marine ecosystems – are precisely the issues the MSC certification process is designed to address.”
Is Netflix’s Seaspiracy worth watching?
The film boasts a 92% ‘fresh’ rating from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, and critics have heaped praise upon it in spite of its “one-sided” approach to the argument.
”Seaspiracy isn’t the purest form of documentary journalism, but Tabrizi makes his point with enough principled persuasion to make it worth your time,” says Decider.
”Seaspiracy has an obvious one-sided rhetorical style that works to undermine it, but the facts, figures, and evidence uncovered about various oceanic conspiracies are difficult to argue with - even if the eventual solutions feel lacking,” adds Ready Steady Cut.
With this in mind, then, we suggest that you watch the compelling documentary for yourself, research and interrogate the information it delivers, and use this to make up your own mind.
Seaspiracy is now streaming on Netflix.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.