Seaspiracy Harms More Than It Educates

Hakai Magazine

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).

As he cues ominous music and tells stories in generalities, Tabrizi glosses over nuance. In the filmmaker’s dichotomous world, everything can be categorized as black or white, good or bad, helping or hurting. And in his quest to save the ocean, he lays blame and resorts to othering.

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