.Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Listening to Dr. Martin Tobin testifying at the trial of Derek Chauvin was riveting. Here is a scientist, a world authority on breathing who explained what happened in great detail in a manner that the jury could understand and relate to.Dr. Tobin was the perfect expert witness with impressive knowledge of the science of breathing Dr. Tobin a world-renowned pulmonologist literally wrote THE book on the science of breathing.
According to the American Thoracic Society is “Dr. Tobin the supreme scholar of critical care medicine and editor or author of seven extraordinary textbooks on the subject.” The Lancet described his textbook Principles And Practice of Mechanical Ventilation as the “Bible” of the field of mechanical ventilation.Yet despite these prestigious credentials, defenders of accused murderer Derek Chauvin actually are questioning Tobin’s scientific knowledge or/and questioning his motivation, claiming that the fact that he did not charge a fee for his testimony indicates bias.If he had charged a fee, the claim would be that he was simply paid by the State to say what the State wanted him to say.So, what does this have to do with the Netflix film Seaspiracy?
Ali and Lucy Tabrizi have directed and produced a film in a way that the general public can understand and relate to, and the film includes some of the world’s foremost Ocean scientists and ocean activists.The other thing that Dr. Tobin’s testimony and Seaspiracy have in common are critics.The reality is that no matter what we do, no matter how good the science, no matter how well presented, there will be critics ready to question, ready to ridicule, ready to dismiss and ready to condemn.Critical constructive questions are okay and in fact encouraged but ridicule, dismissal and condemnation from critics are unacceptable and most likely influenced by a conflict of interests and/or simple jealously. I’m hearing criticisms about Seaspiracy from the usual suspects, all quick to challenge the science as they see it and to point out where they see flaws in the film. The usual suspects being people paid by the fishing industry or by NGO’s that profit from or support commercial fishing or even NGO’s that were not included in the film.Of course, there are things in the film that can be legitimately questioned. Every film certainly has flaws but usually the concerns are that the film did not cover certain issues. It is however quite difficult to cover a subject like global fishing in a mere 90 minutes.
The criticism of the science in the film is irrelevant and based on bias for the most part. There is always disagreement in science. The criticism that the film did not include experts is confusing. I don’t see how anyone can be regarded as more of an expert on the subject of the Ocean than Dr. Sylvia Earle.The criticism that the film promotes veganism is strange. The film never pretended to do otherwise. The fishing industry produces hundreds of films that promote the eating of fish. There is nothing secretive about the film’s position on eating fish.Will McCallum of Greenpeace U.K. criticized the film by saying “turning vegan can’t be the only answer.””A campaign that focuses only on veganism ignores the billions of people that depend on the oceans for survival,” said McCallum, head of oceans at Greenpeace UK.”And without finding a lasting solution that looks after people and planet, our oceans don’t stand a chance.” A predictable response considering even Greenpeace ships are not vegan and serve fish to their crew compared to Sea Shepherd ships having had a vegan diet policy for three decades but McCallum’s statement that billions of people depend on the oceans for survival skirts around the fact that artisanal fishers, poor nations and indigenous people are not the people industrialized fishing is catering too. The European and Asian commercial fleets catch fish for wealthy consumers and in doing so are literally stealing the fish from poorer nations.Greenpeace was not depicted in the film which may be on reason Greenpeace is not happy with it.Oceana’s responded by saying, “Choosing to abstain from consuming seafood is not a realistic choice for the hundreds of millions of people around the world who depend on coastal fisheries – many of whom are also facing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition,” the group said.Once again, they miss the point. The film never attacked coastal fishing communities but it did attack commercial operations that are plundering the waters offshore of coastal communities. They film is not advocating veganism for impoverished peoples facing hunger and malnutrition. In fact, the film stresses that it is industrialized fishing that is the cause of mass starvation and poverty.
The very fact that Oceana refers to living marine beings as “seafood.” Indicates their bias in favor of the fishing industry.I once attended a meeting on Ocean Conservation held by Conservation International in the Dominican Republic where both Dr. Sylvia Earle and I witnessed a smorgasbord of fish presented to the participants. We both marveled at the fact that the organizers did not see the contradictions. Ordering Chilean Sea Bass (Not a bass and not from Chile by the way) in a New York upper scale restaurant or eating Bluefin tuna on sushi rice in Tokyo has nothing to do with poor communities in Africa and India that have suffered greatly from the ravages of industrialized fishing. The criticism that the film was shoddy journalism would be concerning if not for the fact that the film was made by film makers not by journalists. Film makers have a story to tell whereas journalists report on stories about other people, things or happenings. The criticism that the film is racist is ridiculous. One fishing industry critic Fisheries consultant Francisco Blaha amusingly generalized the filmmakers by stating that the film has a tendency to generalize. He tweeted, “I’m over the set up where the ‘bad guys’ are predominantly Asian, the ‘victims’ predominantly black/brown, and the ‘good guys’ talking about it and saving the ocean are predominantly white.”Blaha admits in a tweet that he actually did not see the entire film and his bias is apparent in his job title as “fisheries consultant” to industrialized fishing corporations. In the film the bad guys are not predominantly Asian. The film’s focus is on European as well as Asian fishermen and shows how artisanal fishing communities in Africa are being devastated by industrialized fishing. Industrialized fishing corporations are the bad guys. His assertion that those in the film are predominantly white males is also incorrect. The film was made by a man of Middle Eastern background and a woman – Lucy Tabrizi and features the voices of Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Jane Hightower, Tamara Arenovich, Lori Marino and Lamya Essemlali amongst others. A common tactic of the commercial fishing industry is to distract from the destruction they cause by attempting to make the public believe that the fishing industry is simply made up of hard-working fisherfolk out there in small boats in heavy weather, working hard and taking risks to provide a necessary need for the good of humanity.The reality is that commercial fisheries are instead huge corporate entities with 100 million-dollar vessels like super trawlers, bottom trawler, purse seiners, gill netters and long liners. They are not engaged in “catching” fish. What they are doing is raping and plundering life from the Ocean, destroying bottom structures and pulling trillions of animals from the sea in a systematic policy of biological extermination for the sake of profit.
The entire global fishing industry is a polished efficient extraction industry that utilizes deception and distraction to justify their greed and destruction.Despite the self-serving industry critics, this extraordinary film is a critically acclaimed success and that is a fact. It is a weapon of revelation influencing millions and it needs to be built upon and not dismissed or belittled, especially by people who profess to care about marine ecology. The Ocean does not have time for the justifiers, the appeasers and the complainers. Right now, the Ocean needs activists more than scientists.