Seaspiracy’s Captain Paul Watson Speaks Up to Critics

Criticism of Seaspiracy is Much Ado About Nothing.
It’s Time to Make a Big Deal About Something And That Something is the Dying Ocean.
By Captain Paul Watson

Predictably, the successful release of Seaspiracy on Netflix is receiving some criticism from the usual subjects. That was expected, but it really is not all that important. 

Many documentaries that I have been involved with over the years have been met with similar negativity and vitriol. I remember the criticisms of Rob Stewart and his wonderful film Sharkwater. And The Cove also was belittled by some although the criticisms did not prevent the film from winning the Academy Award for best documentary of the year. Sea of Shadows was also belittled as was even my own film Watson by Leslie Chicott and I do remember Lesley’s earlier film Inconvenient Truth and all the climate change denialists with their hired “scientist” apologists lambasting the credibility of Al Gore. And don’t even get me started on all the “experts” denouncing Greta Thunberg for being too dramatic, too young, and too naïve for their taste. 

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Seaspiracy as a film is what it is, a message transmitted by a medium to provoke discussion and to expose and illustrate a global problem and as such it is both powerful and influential, and most importantly thanks to Netflix it is reaching millions and trending phenomenally. 

It was never meant to be some academic scientific dissertation filled with footnotes and boring references to peer reviewed papers. It’s a film, not some doctoral thesis to be picked apart in search of validation to justify a particular bias.

If we were to produce a 90-minute film with a purely objective scientific fact-confirmed narrative as suggested, it would most likely not appeal to the general public and nothing would change. The corporations and those who work for them already know the facts. They just don’t care because they are motivated by profit.

Filmmaking is storytelling. It’s meant to be emotive. It’s designed to captivate viewers and to entice discussion and controversy. If people are talking about it that means it’s a success. If people are criticizing it, that means it is having an impact. If some people are condemning it, that means that some people are threatened by it.

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Personally, I don’t care if there are scientists and industry people who dislike the film. I don’t need biostitutes (a biological sciences worker who misrepresents research or commits fraud for the benefit of commercial interests or to make a personal profit) and P.R. firms to lecture me on something I have seen and witnessed with my own eyes over the last 60 years. There is no such thing as a sustainable fishery. That is my considered observation based on 60 years of experience. Phytoplankton populations in the sea have been reduced by 40% since 1950 and that is probably the most important validated scientific fact to be concerned about. (Source: Scientific American)

Life in the Ocean is being diminished and that diminishment is escalating. I’m not surprised that there are many who wish to deny this just as there have been many quick to deny climate change.

Change comes about through stories and in today’s world, the most powerful communication medium is film. Lucy and Ali Tabrizi are telling an important story and it’s a great deal to tell in a mere 90 minutes. I would have liked to have seen more details, but more tends to be difficult when making a film because there always tends to be too much material and too little time. 

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Seaspiracy is a hit and it is reaching millions and Ali and Lucy Tabrizi have done a wonderful job in a project that I have actively been involved with for the last few years and proud to be associated with, as I’m sure Captain Peter Hammarstedt and Dr. Sylvia Earle are as well.

Fisheries consultant Francisco Blaha amusingly generalized the filmmakers by stating that the film has a tendency to generalize. He tweeted, “I’m over the set up where the ‘bad guys’ are predominantly Asian, the ‘victims’ predominantly black/brown, and the ‘good guys’ talking about it and saving the ocean are predominantly white.”

Blaha admits in a tweet that he actually did not see the entire film and his bias is apparent in his job title as “fisheries consultant” to industrialized fishing corporations. In the film, the bad guys are not predominantly Asian. The film focuses on European as well as Asian fishermen and shows how artisanal fishing communities in Africa are being devastated by industrialized fishing. Industrialized fishing corporations are the bad guys. His assertion that those in the film are predominantly white males is also incorrect. The film was made by a man of Middle Eastern background and a woman, Lucy Tabrizi, and features the voices of Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Jane Hightower, Tamara Arenovich, Lori Marino and Lamya Essemlali amongst others.

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As for Sea Shepherd, we are working hand in hand with African and Latin American nations to oppose Asian AND European exploitation of the waters of these nations. We are in fact working with and for African, Central and South American nations. This means we are working in opposition to the industry that Blaha consults for. In 2019, Blaha was the winner of the 2019 World Seafood Champion Award which is all we need to know to understand his bias

This film by Ali and Lucy is their project, it is their voice and they have every right to tell their story the way they wish to tell their story. If the critics don’t like it they should take up the challenge and make their own film. In fact, that is the only valid response. All this chatter and pooh-poohing of a film they happen to not like is irrelevant and meaningless.

If they want to make a film with what they consider to be “real” science they should do it. It’s easy to be a critic, easy to slam the work and creativity of others. If there is a film they would rather see produced, one that meets with their approval they should just shut up and make it.

 Farley Mowat wrote and made a TV series Sea of Slaughter a few decades ago. Solid science it was indeed, yet it was dismissed by industry and restricted to the limited audience of the CBC, and he was also told that he was not delivering his message properly, meaning he should be doing it by not offending anyone. He warned us years ago about what was happening yet nothing changed and things became much worse.

This film, despite the naysayers and the critics, is a critically acclaimed success and that is a fact. It is a weapon of revelation and it is influencing millions. It needs to be built upon and not dismissed or belittled, especially by people who profess to care about marine ecology. The Ocean does not have time for the justifiers, the appeasers and the complainers. Right now, the Ocean needs activists more than scientists.

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Article written by Captain Paul Watson.
Paul Franklin Watson is a Canadian-American conservation and environmental activist, who founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977, an anti-poaching and direct action group focused on marine conservation activism.