Seaspiracy Got You Down? 10 Things You Can Do to Protect the Oceans Now
Everyone is talking about Seaspiracy, the Netflix documentary directed by and starring Ali Tabrizi, a 27-year-old British filmmaker with a lifelong love of the oceans. It’s dominating the top three most-watched spots on the streaming platform across major markets. Celebrities are chiming in with their support and people swearing off fish for good. The Internet hasn’t been this abuzz about a Netflix production since 2020’s Tiger King frenzy this time last year.
Seaspiracy is bringing about a sea change, quite literally. It’s so full of mind-bending statistics they’re enough to drown in.
Like millions of people across the globe, Tabrizi grew up a fan of marine mammal parks, mesmerized by dolphins and whales. But his discovery of the growing plastic pollution problem turned him into an activist in recent years. This is where the film begins, with Tabrizi becoming a stalwart for a plastic reduction in the name of ocean conservation. He spends his free time combing beaches for plastic waste, encouraging people to be more conscious about their impact, and looking for answers. What Tabrizi uncovers in the 90 minutes that follow is nothing short of a whale of a story. Fishing is destroying the planet; it’s responsible for most of our plastic pollution problems. Oceans produce more oxygen and sequester more carbon than anyplace else on earth. But unless we take action, we’re going to fish our oceans, and ourselves, into extinction.
“Nothing in the film was news to me,” Omar Todd, Chief Information Officer for ocean non-profit Sea Shepherd told The Beet via email. “But what will be in the news, as well as the climate change issues, will be [the] decimation of plankton in our oceans which will eventually start to affect oxygen supplies.”
He says we know how to fix the problem, but he isn’t so sure we are willing to do the work.
“History shows this can be a pretty grim hope,” Todd says. “We tend to only react once we have to rather than be proactive. But having said that, it’s just as important to have hope.”
Has Seaspiracy left you feeling helpless? There’s good news. Making a difference is easier than you might think. Here are ten things you can do today to help protect our oceans.
1. Stop Eating Fish
It’s the obvious takeaway. Activist and environmentalist George Monbiot crystalizes the simplicity in the film. He says the only ethical thing we can do to save our oceans is to “stop eating fish.” Fishing is depleting vital species and it’s also leaving incomprehensible amounts of ghost fishing gear in our waters. Leaving fish off of your plate is the quickest and easiest way to remedy these issues.
2. Go Plastic-Free
While the film makes our dependency on single-use plastic seem insignificant compared with the fishing industry’s impact, it still matters. Whales still wash up on shores with bellies full of plastic. Recent research found the deepest reaches of the oceans are awash in plastic. Plastics aren’t just detrimental to marine life, either. They change the acidity of the oceans, which impacts their ability to sequester carbon. Quitting our plastic addiction is as important as ever. Switch to reusable and get in the habit of bringing your own straws, cutlery, and water bottles when you travel.
3. Tell Thailand Human Slavery Must End
One of the film’s more shocking revelations comes off the coast of Thailand home to nearly 50,000 fishing boats, many of them shrimping boats. The film reveals horrific accounts of human trafficking and slavery, including young children. There are stories of dead bodies being thrown overboard or kept in the ship’s freezers. You can support organizations, like the Environmental Justice Foundation, working to end human slavery on fishing boats.
4. Support Sea Shepherd
Two members of the Sea Shepherd organization feature prominently in the film: Founder and Captain Paul Watson, and Captain Peter Hammarstedt, Director of Campaigns. The group is best known for its Whale Wars reality show on Animal Planet, which documented its direct action efforts to protect the world’s whales and other marine animals. The group has become an invaluable resource in exposing and stopping ocean crimes. And Captain Watson’s straightforward approach to ocean conservation is all you really need to stay motivated: “If you want to address climate change the first thing you do is protect the ocean,” Watson tells Tabrizi in the film. “And the solution to that is very simple: leave it alone.” Help Sea Shepherd continue to do its important work by becoming a member.
5. Boycott Aquariums and Marine Parks
Tabrizi grew up going to marine parks. It’s not uncommon. But the backlash against these venues has been growing, particularly since the 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish. It detailed the life of captive orcas, following the story of the orca Tilikum who died in 2017 after more than two decades in captivity. You’ve perhaps seen this meme, which shows the reality of just how small marine tanks are for animals that will naturally swim 40 miles a day. Marine parks are also behind Japan’s Taiji dolphin hunt, which features in the film as well, where dolphins are trapped and sold for as much as $100,000. SeaWorld, the largest marine mammal park, has seen its ticket sales decline significantly and steadily since the release of Blackfish, and Seaspiracy will likely only add to that. If you love marine mammals, the best way to show that is by not visiting marine parks.
6. Clean Up Your Beaches
It’s been a long year stuck at home. So make those outings matter. Whether you attend organized beach clean-ups or just get in the habit of picking up plastic (and any!) waste on the beaches, you’ll soon find it’s a hard habit to break. Putting trash and recycling where they belong is one of the easiest ways to help keep trash out of the oceans. Imagine the impact if every beachgoer did this!
7. Support Vegan and Cell-Based Meat Businesses
Even if you’re not willing to give up fish entirely, you can diversify your protein just like you may do with your dairy. (Oat milk latte, anyone?) There are now some incredibly tasty and healthy seafood options that leave fish in the water like the vegan tuna by Good Catch. You can find it at Whole Foods in the tuna section and it tastes just like the real thing. There’s another exciting trend, too, which is cell-based fish. This uses the cells of animals to then grow the protein without the animal. San Diego-based BlueNalu is working on creating fish from cells. Not ready for market yet, but keep an eye out, it will be there soon.
8. Vote for Ocean Conservation
Efforts like Vote the Oceans make it easier to see what’s at stake in your next election. Of course, doing your own due diligence on candidates’ environmental policies is always best practice. Look for specific ocean conservation efforts. Not seeing any? Then you may want to look at whether or not the candidate supports things like offshore drilling or decreased restrictions on fishing industries.
9. Stay Informed
The only way to do something about a problem is to know it exists. Whether that’s watching more documentaries, reading more books, signing up for newsletters, or getting involved with a local organization, the more you know, the more you can help make a difference.
10. Teach Compassion
Marine biologist Sylvia Earle brings wisdom to the film, not just from her six decades spent underwater, but her 85 years as a human on earth. She encourages viewers to look in the mirror and become the person who makes these critical changes. It really does happen one person at a time. And with all the devastating consequences our world faces, if we don’t take action today, a healthy tomorrow gets farther and farther away. There’s never been a more important time to motivate young people to take ownership in protecting the planet. We can all do our part by teaching love, respect, and compassion for all living things.