Seaspiracy warns of ocean apocalypse, but depleted seas are recovering in Scottish island’s pioneer no-fishing zone
If you’re planning on watching Netflix’s latest shock factor documentary Seaspiracy, it might be wise not to leave fish on the menu for dinner that night.
Directed by Ali Tabrizi, 27, the film explores the crisis of overfishing, pollution and damage to our oceans, which he says with around 90% of the world’s big wild fish missing is a huge problem. that we should all be more aware as consumers.
Similar to its predecessor, Cowspiracy, which aimed at the polluting and disastrous ecological effects of the global meat and factory farming industry, Seaspiracy offers an unacceptable 90 minutes of the negative effects of fish farming, the prevalence of slavery in Thai. fishing fleets and whether human life can survive if we continue with what the UN calls the “continuing upward trend” of overfishing and the potential collapse of our seas.
While the facts presented in Seaspiracy hardly leave a glimmer of hope, there is one to be found, right here in Scotland: a small marine conservation organization on the Isle of Arran showing what can be done with a proper management and protection of our seas.
Scotland’s first and only Permanent Permanent No-Take Zone (NTZ) – areas where all fishing is prohibited – was established by the Scottish Government in 2008, after years of campaigning by the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST).
The results showed that despite overfishing, trawling and reef collapse, areas can regenerate if given the opportunity.
“A study from the University of York has shown that the numbers of some species have increased by almost 400% since the community-supported NTZ project was established off the Isle of Arran,” said Jenny Stark from COAST.
“NTZ now sits in a 280 km2 Marine Protected Area (MPA) at Lamlash Bay, created in 2014, with fisheries management measures – which promote sustainable fishing – implemented in 2016, which has shown an even more pronounced recovery of biodiversity.
“The study also found that there are nearly four times as many king scallops in the NTZ since research began in 2010, and that the number of legal-sized lobsters is also four times as many in the NTZ as in adjacent areas.
“There is further evidence of species ‘overflow’ into surrounding areas, and the study also indicates increasing habitat complexity in the NTZ.
COAST was established in 1995 by two local divers, Howard Wood and Don MacNeish, who witnessed firsthand the destruction of the Firth of Clyde fisheries, which were once abundant in herring, cod, turbot and haddock.
Until the 1980s, local communities could fish sustainably thanks to long-standing laws that prohibited the practice of towing fishing gear along the seabed.
“Growing international demand for seafood and sustained lobbying from powerful commercial fishing interests in the 1980s led the UK government to repeal various seabed protection measures,” Stark said.
“Coupled with advances in fishing technology, new pro-industry policies have opened up the Firth of Clyde to more destructive fishing practices.
“The fisheries quickly collapsed and the industry continued to exploit the few marine resources that were left in the area: scallops and shrimp.
“The commercial fishing industry has started plowing the seabed with scallop dredges, passing through the same area several times to maximize their catch. They damaged the seabed and mutilated coral and kelp forests – vital growing areas for fish and shellfish – crippling the habitat necessary for a healthy marine ecosystem.
Despite this, COAST’s work has helped restore the health of the area, and there are currently no plans to reopen the NTZ to fishing.
But what does it look like below the surface in parts of the rest of Scotland?
“In short, the Scottish seas are in dire straits,” Stark said.
“The native oyster reefs around Scotland are now completely extinct and whitefish and herring stocks have collapsed to commercial extinction.
“According to the Scottish Marine Assessment 2020, 11 ‘key’ fish stocks were assessed in 2018 – of these, five (46%) are overexploited.
“In each region studied, losses of biogenic reefs were reported.
“Argyll has lost 53% of its flame shell reefs, the Clyde has lost 9%, as well as 10% of its maerl beds over the past decade.
“The Outer Hebrides have lost 27% of their seagrass beds and 58 hectares of Serpulid reefs have disappeared (around 50% of their total range).
“There is a wide range of pressures on our seas – climate change, pollution, overfishing – but one of the fundamental problems is chronic and persistent damage to the seabed.”
Callum Roberts, a marine conservationist at the University of Exeter, likened scallop dredging to “chopping down a rainforest to catch a parrot”.
Roberts is also featured in Seaspiracy, and the film claims that bottom trawlers wipe out 3.9 billion acres of seabed per year and that an area the same size as 15 countries, including huge masses like the Australia, Greenland and Mexico, has already been destroyed.
The film also claims that at the current rate of fishing, our seas will be essentially empty by 2048.
Yet this and other claims made have been criticized by some marine biologists who have said the documentary is a simplistic portrayal of a complex industry and presents a misrepresentation of the facts.
Professor Paul G. Fernandes, Professor of Fisheries Science at the University of Aberdeen, is one of them.
He said: “[Seaspiracy] expresses valid concerns about fishing in developing countries, shark fin fishing and human rights violations; but it is far from consistent in its assessment of activity in developed countries where drastic improvements have been made in the 21st century.
“Failure to recognize the tremendous efforts that have been made to make fishing sustainable in the North Atlantic and North Pacific is misleading at best, if not downright devious.”
But despite some scientific hindsight from the topics explored in Seaspiracy, COAST’s remedial work is not easy to discuss.
The group played a central role, working with Fauna and Flora International, helping to build the network of coastal communities. To date, this network has helped 15 other community groups around the Scottish coast to improve the protection of their own local waters.
The facts about Seaspiracy disputed by Scottish fish farming organizations as documentary controversy continues
Local MSP Kenneth Gibson said: “The community of Arran should be very proud of their accomplishments over the past decade in promoting marine conservation.
“This study demonstrates the potential for effective marine management and I will be lobbying the Scottish government to seriously consider creating more ZNTs as part of their marine management plans.”
Work on Arran has also won a series of environmental awards, influenced national marine protection policy, and underscored the importance of community involvement in marine protection projects.
“The success of Arran’s conservation has been recognized internationally and inspires greater involvement of local communities across the UK and beyond,” said Dr Bryce Stewart of the Department of Environment and Geography of York University.
“Local communities across the UK have looked at the story unfolding in Lamlash Bay and – like COAST – have now decided to take the fate of their coastal waters into their own hands.”
Seaspiracy, Streaming Now, Netflix