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Seaspiracy Harms More Than It Educates

The appeal of the Netflix hit is that it suggests there’s one solution to the ocean’s woes. That’s not true. A marine ecologist explains.

The new Netflix documentary Seaspiracy opens with suspenseful music as a fishing boat chugs along. Quick cuts. Guns. Tuna. Danger. Life or death stakes. We’re introduced to filmmaker and main character Ali Tabrizi. Tabrizi is a Brit in his 20s driven by curiosity, passion, and a yearning to discover the one crucial reason the ocean he loves is in trouble.

And therein lies the crux of why this film has angered so many people.

In his search around the world for the one villain behind all of the ocean’s ills, Tabrizi reduces a complex tangle of social, political, and environmental factors to a simple narrative. His villain changes at alarming speed from plastic to illegal whaling to tuna fishing to shark fishing to overfishing to plastic from overfishing to disingenuous seafood sustainability certifications. He finally decides that, yes, fishing is the principal villain (with a left turn toward aquaculture at the end).

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