10 things we learnt from Seaspiracy

Over the last few days, there has been a lot of discussion around Netflix’s latest documentary, Seaspiracy, which investigates the impact humanity has had on the oceans, and the people who are destroying them. The documentary is leaving viewers upset, shocked, and terrified about what is going on in our oceans. Here are 10 things we have learnt from the documentary…

1. Plastic Pollution is out of control

plastic pollution
Credit: Verdict

There is so much plastic and rubbish in our waters that there are now numerous huge garbage patches floating across the ocean. There is a garbage patch in the Great Pacific which is 1.6 million square kilometres, and 46% of it is made up of discarded fishing nets. Every minute the equivalent of a garbage truckload of plastic is dumped into the sea, where there are already more than 150 million tonnes of rubbish.

2. Whales and Dolphins are essential!

Whales and Dolphins
Credit: The Conversation

When dolphins and whales return to the surface to breathe, they fertilise tiny marine plants in the ocean called Phytoplankton, which every year absorb four times as much carbon dioxide as the Amazon Rainforest, and generates up to 85% of the Oxygen we breathe. Despite this in 2018, Japan restarted commercial whaling despite a worldwide ban being issued in 1986 and have targeted and killed hundreds of whales. For every one dolphin captured, there are twelve more killed.

Taiji is a town in the south of Japan, where you could see whaling from the coast. Each year more than 700 dolphins and small whales are herded into a small cove, where they are then slaughtered. This area is highly patrolled, and people entering Taiji are watched closely. Rumours have it that all the hotel rooms are bugged, the television’s have camera’s, the police will follow you, all because they don’t want people to know about what goes on there. In the documentary, you can see Ali and Lucy being followed by the police, and the water in the cove go red with dolphin blood.

3. There is less than 3% of Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna to what there was in 1970

bluefin tuna
Credit: The Pew Charitable Trusts

One of these fish was sold in Tokyo for more than $3 million. They are warm-blooded and can accelerate faster than a Ferrari. This is a $42 billion industry, so no wonder everyone is so secretive about it.

4. 11,000-30,000 sharks killed every hour

sharks endangered
Credit: Scuba Diver Life

Shark finning is a multi-billion dollar industry, which has led to sharks all around the world and being killed and having their fins cut off. These are sent to Asia, predominately Japan and China, so that shark fin soup can be made, a symbol of wealth that can cost over $100 per bowl despite not having no nutritional value.

Sharks keep the oceans healthy, and without them the ocean would die. The shark population has significantly increased since 1970, with there being 80% less Thresher sharks, 86% less Bull and Smooth Hammerhead sharks, and 99% less Scalloped Hammerhead sharks.

But almost half of the sharks killed are viewed as bycatch, where they were unintentionally caught by commercial fishing fleets, killed, and then thrown back into the ocean. Every year 50 million sharks die this way.

5. Labels can lie

dolphin safe labels
Credit: San Miguel Times

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society member Lamya Essemlali tells Ali in the documentary that one tuna boat she caught had killed 45 dolphins just to catch 8 tuna. This vessel belonged to The Earth Island Institute, which sells their tuna in cans that say ‘Dolphin Safe’.

When Ali interviewed Mark Palmer of The Earth Island Institute, he was told that it’s impossible to know, as although they have observers on their boats, they can be bribed.

Commercial fishing is one of the biggest threats to whales and dolphins, with 300,000 accidentally being killed each year as bycatch.

6. 90% of coral reefs will be dead by 2050

coral reefs
Credit: Trip Savvy

Fish are vital to keep coral reefs alive; when fish excrete, this is food for the corals. Without the fish, the coral is not getting the nutrients they need. In the Caribbean 90% of the fish population has disappeared since 2020. Marine plants can store up to 90% more carbon than forests. 93% of the world’s Co2 is stored in the oceans through algae and coral, losing just 1% of this Co2 is the same as releasing the emissions of 97 million cars.

7. Longline fishing sets enough fishing lines to wrap around the planet 500 times each day

Long line fishing
Credit: Twitter

Longline fishing uses hundreds if not thousands of baited hooks for a single line which can be up to 100km long. The fish who are caught on the hooks can be dragged along for hours or even days before being pulled off, resulting in severe injury and death in a cruel way.

8. Plastic straws only account for 0.03% of plastic in the ocean

plastic straws
Credit: Smoke signals

While non-reusable plastics are still a problem, even if we got rid of all single-use straws and toothpicks, it would not make the difference we need.

9. Fishing is worse than oil spills

oil spill ocean
Credit: Smithsonian Magazine

The deepwater horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico occurred in 2010 and is considered the largest marine oil spill in the petroleum industry’s history. Despite this, more marine life is killed in the course of a day than the total killed over three months because of the oil spill. That oil spill actually meant large areas were closed to fishing; it allowed the marine life to benefit as it meant less fishing.

Fishing has also left 6 out of every 7 species of sea turtles endangered and at risk of extinction. This is endangerment is because of fishing and not plastic as many people believe. Although 1000 sea turtles across the world die each year from plastic, 250,000 sea turtles are captured or killed from fishing vessels just in the USA.

10. Trawling causes sea floor damage

Credit: Animals Australia

Trawling is the most destructive form of fishing, with some of the nets being so large that they could fit entire cathedrals or up to 13 jumbo jets in them. The trawlers leave nothing behind, and is seafloor deforestation. Each year 3.9 billion acres of seafloor is cleared, compared to just 25 million acres of land deforestation, because this is something we do not see. The 3.9 billion acres is equivalent to 4316 football fields being cleared every minute.

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