Posted on Wed, June 24, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
1 Comments | Categories: Biodiversity, Film/TV/Radio, News, Current Events, Seafood,
By Gabrielle Redner
Rupert Murray’s documentary, The End of the Line, educates its audience about the reality of the sea: it is not an ever -replenishing body of water, and it is running low on many of its largest fish. Most likely, people who go to see the film agree that the ocean, like our land, must be mindfully utilized and not greedily mined. So what new information does the film provide to those who are concerned about fish in the sea? For starters, Murray acknowledges that the trawlers scooping hordes of fish out of the ocean rob the world not only of fish, but of jobs, a food source and the spirit of fishing communities.
Based on a book by British journalist Charles Clover, this film visually exposes the fishing industry’s incredibly powerful technologies. A boat unloads a waterfall of sardines, most of which will be used to feed farmed fish. Graphs of fish populations plummet, while graphs of their pray are on the exponential rise. The viewer is warned of the inevitable simplification of aquatic ecosystems if we continue to fish beyond recommended quotas.
As the scenes flash from rather bloody struggles of man and fish to decadent diners at Nobu, it’s hard not to think back to your last piece of delicious fish with a portion of guilt. But that is not the point. Like our land animals that may be sustainably raised and fed, fish can be caught using methods that ensure their sustainability, as well. The film does not ask us to reconsider whether to eat fish or not, but rather to consider the practices of those who caught the fish, and the stability of that species.
We hear from various scientists, professors, and marine experts about the reality of the sea over the past sixty years. But the real eye-opening information is brought to us by the fishermen and by Charles Clover himself. They reveal the human consequences of the situation at sea. Descendants from a long line of fishermen have no more fish to catch. Towns that were founded on fishing lose their primary characteristic. People who need to eat may not have an alternative food source when environmental problems continue to threaten the land.
In a poignant scene about fishing in Senegal, a man contemplates moving to Europe, away from a trade he loves, so that his children will grow up in a land that offers a future. He feels that Senegal, at least as a home for local fishermen, does not.
Murray’s story is one of fisherman, fishing industries, consumers and politicians. He does not overlook details: Murray reveals differences between fishing practices, the problems with farmed fish, and how money and politics can get in the way of a solution. The fishermen, fishing industries, consumers and politicians are the independent variables in an experiment of progress and consumption. The people involved are the ones who must alter their behavior so that the fish and our aquatic ecosystems will thrive.
We may try to beat nature with our rods and trawlers, and come very close to winning. But when we have no more fish in the sea, no more off-land food supply, and populations of jobless fishermen, we surely will not be winning. Murray seems to be asking us to utilize the wisdom that distinguishes humans from other animals: can we recognize that our power lies not in reaching our technological potential, but in recognizing that potential, and choosing not to reach it?