A documentary from environmental alliance Age of Union, with Will Allen, cinematographer for Revolution and Sharkwater: Extinction that exposes the catastrophic devastation fishing bycatch has on earth’s vulnerable ocean creatures.
Age of Union, in alliance with Sea Shepherd France, discovers the largest dolphin kill on the planet. Their ship also finds a patch of over 100,000 dead fish floating on the surface of the ocean that were likely discarded due to being unwanted by a vessel previously “banned from Australian waters because of concerns over its impact on the local ecosystem.”
Bycatch is a side effect of mass-fishing methods like long-lining and trawling, wherein dolphins, sharks, turtles, and other sea life get caught up in huge nets meant for fish and are killed without care or purpose, allegedly by accident. But, as Sea Shepherd volunteer Karine Demure asks, “When you see that there are so many dolphins around your boat, and you put the net in anyway…how can we still say it’s accidental?”
Industrial fishing vessels target the fish species that dolphins eat to survive, not only depleting an important link in the food chain, but catching dolphins in the same nets, thereby needlessly killing them and discarding their bodies back into the water. Because of the cuts caused by fishing nets, most will sink, keeping public awareness low, but a small percentage – between six and ten thousand annually – wash up on France’s shores, where local conservationists want the public to see the clear signs of bycatch devastation. Many French locals to these beaches had no idea their waters housed dolphins at all.
Millions of lives are wasted because of these indiscriminate fishing methods. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), “Entanglement in fishing gear is the leading threat for whales and dolphins around the globe – estimated to cause at least 300,000 deaths per year.” This statistic is even higher for sharks and rays. WWF reports, “despite their importance, an estimated 100 million sharks and rays are killed by fishing and bycatch worldwide each year.” Unlike dolphins, sharks can be valuable to the fishermen and any caught will likely be butchered for their fins and liver oil, then cast off the ships.
By decimating the fish population that they rely on, industrial fishing forces marine predators to feed closer to the boats that have their next meal in their nets, increasing the risk of getting caught themselves. Any sea life that is caught by trawling or long-lining that is not the intended catch – other fish, dolphins, sharks, turtles – are injured or killed trying to escape the nets. “Fish, sharks, dolphins, rays…everything is going down,” says Captain Alex Cornelissen, CEO of Sea Shepherd Global.
Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson urges us to understand that “everything is interdependent” in the ocean and the larger world around us. “If we keep killing the ecosystem we are going to ultimately kill ourselves” warns Captain Cornelissen.
The documentary aims to raise awareness about bycatch and its role in destroying vital marine ecosystems that make our oceans healthy and sustain our life on earth. Since its release France has banned fishing in parts of the Atlantic Ocean. ~Selina Barker