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Some topics of real concerns regarding the oceans and fisheries were raised in the “documentary,” but unfortunately the entire piece was filled with sensationalistic journalism, not backed by real science. The data on which the filmmaker based his shocking claims was either dated, over-exagerated, or just plain made up. The “experts” referenced in the film were extremists, whose data is borderline quackery…
I can’t speak to every subject that was touched on in the piece, but as a biologist that worked nearly 10 years in marine aquaculture, and a veteran of over 30 years in the fresh tuna business, many of those years working specifically with bluefin tuna, there are a few glaring “facts” that were brought up that need to be clarified:
“A bluefin tuna is sold for 3 MILLION dollars in Japan.” Time and time again the “million dollar tuna” is publicized, promoting the MYTH that bluefin tuna are being fished out of our world’s oceans by greedy Japanese fishermen…it’s stereotyping and insulting.
For the record, ONE bluefin tuna, ONE day of the year--January 1st, is ceremoniously “bid up” in the Tokyo fish auction to an outrageous price. In Japanese culture the New Year is the most important holiday of the year. The reasoning behind this tradition is that “if the first tuna of the year is sold for a high price, we’ll have high prices for the rest of the year,” and sets the tone for the rest of the year. Similarly, in Japanese households, they put out the best spread of food on the New Year (eat well on the 1st, eat well the rest of the year...). BUT unfortunately over and over again this cool tradition of pricing the New Year’s “chosen” bluefin tuna is distorted and extrapolated by groups with an agenda against fishing, and frankly—against Asians.
“Bluefin tuna have been fished to near extinction, and are at only 3% of their natural capacity.” This is misleading and OLD NEWS. In truth, the recovery of bluefin tuna stocks worldwide has become a fisheries success story.
The latest news from the International Scientific Committee, (ISC) the world’s premier authority on tuna fisheries, at the current rate of recovery, the 2020 stock assessment of Northern Pacific Bluefin:
- There is 100% assurance Pacific Bluefin will have reached sustainability (20% SSB*) in 2024, and likely will reach this important benchmark already in 2021.
- There is 100% assurance this same fishery will reach “unfished” levels by 2034, and likely to reach this goal by 2026. “UNFISHED” levels—meaning a virgin ocean before any tuna in the ocean were caught…
Also, to be accurate, the 3% mentioned in the piece refers to the *Spawning Stock Biomass, or SSB, which represent adult individuals that can mate, reproduce, and create offspring for future generations. It does NOT represent the total biomass of bluefin tuna in the ocean. As a reference, scientists consider a 20% SSB as a healthy benchmark, a sustainable makeup of spawning age adults among the total biomass by which many of the commercial tuna species such as yellowfin tuna, skipjack tuna, bigeye tuna, and bluefin tuna are measured.
PURE JOURNALISTIC SENSATIONALISM
In any case, within my circle of knowledge and expertise, the filmmaker basically used provenly false claims as his basis of “fact,” and then made wild leaps of extrapolation—or in some instances, just makes stuff up, to reach stunning conclusions to shock and impress/mislead the public. Having a science background and worked as a marine biologist in commercial aquaculture since the 1980s, I have first-hand experience in seeing good and bad examples of wild capture, aquaculture, marine mammal protection, and IUU,. Unfortunately throughout the piece the same formula was used—take superficial and examples of the worst case scenario, and generalize these horrendous acts as the “standard” in all of the seafood and aquaculture industry. It is very misleading to say the least.
From >40 years of working in the seafood industry, there is one principle I go by, and have taught my children: QUALITY is where it’s at. Good quality seafood is worth a lot, and poor quality seafood is unappetizing, gets people sick, and is worth nothing. In fact, in all of business and in life (especially in seafood), good quality products, work, and services last, whereas faulty and unethical practices never last. In many ways it’s a self-regulated industry. I often say, “you have to 20 things right out of 20 to be successful in this business.” It is literally impossible to produce quality seafood time after time if you don’t practice sustainable methods, and pay fair wages to your workers.
Without a doubt there are issues in all that the filmmaker brings up, but BY NO MEANS do they represent the wild and farmed seafood industry practices as a whole.
BLUEFIN TUNA—A FISHERY MANAGEMENT SUCCESS STORY
TIMELINE AND THE HISTORY OF THE RECOVERY OF BLUEFIN TUNA STOCKS WORLDWIDE—THE FACTS
- In the past Bluefin tuna WERE being overfished worldwide, reaching perilously low numbers going into 2004-2009, as indicated in “Seaspriracy.” There was a “gold rush” of sorts happening in the relatively new bluefin tuna ranching industry, where wild bluefin are captured live, kept in ocean pens, fed and fattened, then harvested and sold in prime condition. where the highly-prized “toro” being paid handsome prices in the Japanese auction.
- Beginning in 2007, the alarms went off amongst all parties interested in bluefin tuna. Scientists, NGOs, and the fishing industry itself reacted by up to 70% reduction in capture, FULL TRACEABILITY, requiring ICCAT documents for each and every bluefin tna caught and exported from any country in the world.
- Coupled with all the measures being taken to protect bluefins, the Great Recession beginning in the fall of 2007 through almost 2010 caused a dramatic decrease in price for the prized bluefin, down to a third of the pre-recession prices. Nearly ALL bluefin ranches worldwide went out of business, or barely survived. Even to this day the prices have never climbed up to even half the values from the past.
- Bluefin tuna mature in 5 years, and each female can spawn tens of millions of eggs. Fast-forward 15 years, by leaving so much of the world’s bluefins unfished for nearly three generations, the repopulation of bluefin tuna in the world has been phenomenal. As mentioned in Seaspiracy, a well-managed fishery CAN recover to abundant stocks.
- The most abundant population of Pacific Bluefin Tuna in 50 years. Currently, the sheer quantities of bluefin off Mexico and California have never been seen since the 1950’s through 1970’s.
To give you an idea of the relative abundance and health of the stock of ranched Pacific bluefin from which Prime Time Seafood, and Riviera Seafood Club are supplied:
- In 2006 there were approximately 11 bluefin ranching companies/concessions, each operating separate farms with a “suggested” total quota for the industry of 10,000 metric tons. Bluefin started “running” as early as April-May, halfway down the Baja California peninsula, and they would migrate north up through northern Baja, California, and by the fall months could be off of Northern California and even Oregon. It took the Mexican ranching industry 3-4 months of fishing, involving upwards of 15 giant purse seiners, to catch 8,000 metric tons of bluefin weighing 10-40 kilos. The tuna fishing effort to fill the cages started in June and lasted through August.
- For the past 4-5 seasons, bluefin tuna are found YEAR ROUND off the coasts of Mexico and California, and all Mexican ranches operate under a strict 3,000 metric ton quota. The fishing season starts in the first days of January, and lasts 2 WEEKS. The sizes range from 30-200 kilos, the average capture size over the past 3 years has been 70-90 kilos per fish.
Sportsfishing in California and Mexico have also been experiencing by far the best bluefin tuna fishing in decades.
WHALES AND DOLPHINS
As a biologist involved in the tuna industry, there is OVERWHELMING history and evidence that through Marine Mammal Protection programs that have been in place since the 1970s, whale, dolphin, and sea loin populations have been growing for decades. Contrary to the film, nearly all pelagic dolphin species stocks are healthy.
- The common practice of dolphins dying as bycatch in tuna nets ended back in the 1970s with the advent of the “backdown” procedure—that allows dolphins captured together with tuna schools escape from the net, and 100% observer coverage, which has been the standard in the tuna industry--worldwide for decades. Again, this is OLD NEWS. I have many colleagues who are lifelong tuna biologists in charge of tuna observer programs throughout Latin America. The claim the filmmaker makes that all observers fear for their lives is nonsense.
To claim dolphins are being killed in great numbers by tuna purse seiners is not only patently untrue, but it’s a slap in the face to thousands of dedicated tuna biologists, observers, tuna captains, deckhands, processors and distributors that have been maintaining the balance of sustainability of the fishery with the livelihoods of millions of people that depend on the ocean for their way of life.(Video) Seaspiracy | Official Trailer | Netflix
- Likewise, the world’s whale populations have thrived over the past decades. Current whaling operations are a FRACTION of what they once were. The harvest of pilot whales depicted in the film, as barbaric and shocking as shown, takes place in very, very, select places in the world. Whaling is a relic of the past will never come back. By no means is there a massive active whale fishery in the world.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
Yes, as the film says, let’s follow the money.
In regards to bluefin tuna, the price of fresh, sashimi-qualty bluefin tuna has maintained at historically low levels since post Recession. The reason for that is simple: there is more supply than demand. At the same time there has been phenomenally strong rebuilding of the wild stock of bluefin tuna worldwide, due to extraordinary efforts from all parties involved.
Extremist environmental groups survive on donations. Donations from well-meaning people who are passionate about nature and the oceans. But the heartstrings and pocketbooks of the public can only be opened when “the sky’s falling…” The sky is NOT falling in regards to the future of fisheries and especially the future of aquaculture.
In reality, MANY of the world’s fisheries have been well-managed for many years—tuna being one of them.
Also, the resiliency of the fishes in our oceans can be quite astounding. Many fisheries have been properly managed from the brink of collapse. That is the power of many species like tuna, sardine, and other species that spawn millions of eggs. Unlike the film’s depiction of tigers and pandas, a panda does not spawn 10 million eggs…
The film focused on less than 5% of the wild fishery and aquaculture producers of the world, the worst offenders—to purposely produce a shocking piece of sensationalist journalism to create fear and hatred.
In the end, MY MESSAGE, from a seafood and aquaculture industry professional, is that like ALL the foods we chose to eat, I suggest you investigate the sources, the farms, the processors, the ingredients. As in most food industries, there are a majority of good players and a few bad players. Do your homework, or buy from purveyors that study and vet their sources.
What a travesty to purposely misrepresent a whole way of life for millions and millions of people throughout the world—people who CARE about the oceans, and have spent years, decades, lifetimes on the water, in TRUE dedication to the sea and the world.
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- Bluefin Tuna
Solution: Reduce your plastic usage
However, one individual's actions didn't solve the problem. But many individuals' actions can. The best solution to this problem is for each person to decide not to use plastic. We can save many whales from washing up on the shores with their bellies full of plastic.
The film examines human impacts on marine life and advocates for ending fish consumption. The film explores environmental issues affecting oceans, including plastic pollution, ghost nets and overfishing, and argues that commercial fisheries are the main driver of marine ecosystem destruction.Why is overfishing a problem? ›
Overfishing can deplete key reef species and damage coral habitat. Coral reef ecosystems support important commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishery resources in the U.S and its territories.Who are the three people whose documentaries inspired the narrator's obsession with the ocean? ›
And for as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated with dolphins and whales. My obsession with the ocean, though, was really born out of watching documentaries from people like Jacques Cousteau, David Attenborough, and Sylvia Earle.What is the most effective solution to overfishing? ›
- Choose certified sustainable seafood. ...
- Reduce food waste and learn better ways to cook and store seafood. ...
- Share real news. ...
- Encourage the next generation to think and act sustainably. ...
- Donate to help fund our work in under-resourced regions.
But humans kill 11,000 to 30,000 sharks per hour.What is the truth about overfishing? ›
According to the World Bank, almost 90% of global marine fish stocks are fully exploited or overfished.What are the benefits of ending overfishing? ›
Ending overfishing results in: the reduction of fishing effort to ensure sustainable levels of fish catch and yield given the management structure in place (e.g., MSY); a healthier, richer ocean with more diverse fish populations; a more complete marine food web with fish of all trophic levels well represented; and a ...Who is the main cause of overfishing? ›
What are the causes of overfishing? Poor fishing management is the primary cause. Around the world, many fisheries are governed by rules that make the problem worse, or have no rules at all.Who is responsible for overfishing? ›
What Causes Overfishing? While there are many causes of overfishing, increasing human demand, subsidies, poor management of fisheries, and lack of protective regulations are the biggest drivers.
“Overfishing [as opposed to sustainable fishing] reduces fish stocks to levels where they cannot support catches to feed coastal communities,” said Harborne. “Furthermore, fish have an important role in marine ecosystems. For example, parrotfish on coral reefs eat seaweed and allow corals to flourish.Who likes the ocean? ›
Thalassophile. If you're reading this, you're probably an ocean lover. Or in other words, you're a thalassophile, someone who loves the ocean.Who narrates documentaries? ›
These narrators include Peter Coyote, Morgan Freeman, David Attenborough, and Jacques Cousteau.What makes a movie a documentary? ›
A documentary film purports to present factual information about the world outside the film. A nonfiction film about real events and people, often avoiding traditional narrative structures. Documentary [is] the creative treatment of actuality.What countries are the worst for overfishing? ›
Japan, China, the U.S., Indonesia, Chinese Taipei and South Korea have been named by Pew Charitable Trusts on a “shame list” of countries responsible for overfishing tuna in the Pacific.What will happen if we stop overfishing? ›
A study finds that ending overfishing would stop the population declines of endangered bycatch species about half the time. Healthier fish stocks. Higher catches. Profits from fishing.Is overfishing improving? ›
These numbers show slight improvements compared to the 2021 figures of 92% and 80%, respectively. Positive trends were seen this year with the number of stocks on the overfishing list decreasing by two stocks to 24, and the number of overfished stocks decreasing by three stocks to 48.What fishing method is most destructive to oceans? ›
Bottom trawling, a fishing method that drags a large net across the sea floor, is extremely destructive, destroying as it destroys entire seafloor habitats including rare deep sea coral and sponge ecosystems that take decades to millennia to develop.Is fish farming a solution to overfishing? ›
But fish farms effectively move the problem of overfishing from the wild oceans and into more enclosed areas. This does not solve any of the problems of overfishing. It merely creates new ones with no less impact on the environment.Where in the world is overfishing a problem? ›
The Mediterranean Sea is the most overfished place in the world. Fish populations have dropped dramatically over the past fifty years. Since there is some many people in this region of the world, this body of water has been trying to more people than it can support, which is harming the ecosystem.
The odds of being attacked and killed by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067 (0,000026 percent), which means that there are 18 diseases and accidental causes of death more likely to kill you during your lifetime than the ocean's predator.Are 100 million sharks killed every year throughout the world? ›
How Many Sharks Are Killed a Year? Around 100 million sharks are killed each year worldwide, according to a paper published in Marine Policy in 2013. In the study, researchers calculated that between 6.4 and 7.9 percent of all sharks are killed annually.How many humans are killed by sharks every year? ›
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When too many fish are taken out of the ocean it creates an imbalance that can erode the food web and lead to a loss of other important marine life, including vulnerable species like sea turtles and corals.Are the oceans being overfished? ›
Almost 90 percent of global marine fish stocks are now fully exploited or overfished, and wild capture fisheries struggle without sound regulatory frameworks and strong enforcement. The status of marine biodiversity is closely connected with ocean pollution and acidification.How does overfishing affect economy? ›
It can result in a food crisis and loss of employment for some of around 60 million people who work directly and indirectly in the fishing industry. “Wild fish simply can't reproduce as fast as 7 billion people can eat them,” said Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist and founder of Ocean Collectiv.How many fish are caught each year? ›
It has been estimated that between 0.97 to 2.7 trillion fish are caught from the wild and killed globally every year: This doesn't include the billions of fish that are farmed.Is there a solution to overfishing? ›
Reform, subsidies, and declaring certain areas of the sea off-limits to non-sustainable fishing are probably the best overfishing solutions. Individual consumer choices, like purchasing fish from sustainable fisheries and fish farms, are also a great way to encourage the growth of sustainable fishing.Why overfishing needs to be stopped? ›
Overfishing can impact entire ecosystems. It can change the size of fish remaining, as well as how they reproduce and the speed at which they mature.
No more fish
The world's oceans could be virtually emptied for fish by 2048. A study shows that if nothing changes, we will run out of seafood in 2048. If we want to preserve the ecosystems of the sea, change is needed.
NRDC works to end overfishing, rebuild depleted fisheries, and promote the long-term sustainability of fisheries to protect and revive ecosystems.What would happen if we stopped overfishing? ›
Millions would struggle to eat and earn enough
Around the world, 40 million people earn their living directly from catching wild fish, while another 19 million are employed in aquaculture – fish-farming or growing seafood in controlled conditions such as sea pens and cages, lochs and ponds.
If overfishing continues, more species will be driven to extinction and aquatic ecosystems will collapse. Fisheries should behave responsibly because they are major forces of ecological and evolutionary change.Will fish be gone by 2050? ›
The world will be able to catch an additional 10 million metric tons of fish in 2050 if management stays as effective as it is today, says the report. But increasing catches without significantly improving management risks the health of predator species and could destabilize entire ecosystems.Will the oceans be empty by 2048? ›
Countries with the highest consumption, such as Iceland and the Maldives, ate more than 80 kg of fish and seafood per person on average in 2019. According to a study done by Dalhousie University, if things remain the same, the world's oceans could be virtually empty by 2048.Will we run out of salmon? ›
Salmon are not endangered worldwide. For example, most populations in Alaska are healthy. Some populations in the Pacific Northwest are...