14 March 2010

“The loss of the fish was basically akin to the loss of soul.”

On the bus after work on Friday, Alej and I had the following exchange:

Alej: What are you doing tonight?
Me: I’m watching the documentary The End of the Line.
Alej: Are you going to cry?
Me: Probably

And I did. Three separate times. The first time was less than four minutes into the movie.

For those of you who may not know, The End of the Line is a documentary based on a book by the same name. Both explore the overfishing crisis, the state of the world’s fisheries, and their grim, grim future.

I’ve read the book, and it made me mad. It’s not like I didn’t know, generally, all that the book had to offer, but having it all concentrated in one place and reading it back-to-back really angers the reader. The movie has the same effect. Sure, we know the cod collapsed, and we know sharks are finned, and we know the tuna are on the way out. We know trawling is wasteful and we know that bycatch is the festering disease of all fisheries. But having all that information concentrated into 90 minutes of aural and visual stimulus will give most people a sense of what it’s like in my head, all the time.

The movie does touch on the cod collapse. It was fascinating see the old CBC footage of the announcements and riots when the moratorium was first called. I didn’t care about fish back then, so I have few memories of that from my childhood. They interviewed Jeff Hutchings about the impact of the cod collapse and he said that “the loss of the fish was basically akin to the loss of the soul.” And 50 years later, neither people nor fish have recovered. It's remarkable that we [Canadians] stare that failure in the face everyday and we still do nothing to stop it from happening again on an even larger scale. The movie was kind enough to not point that out to us, though.

The rest of the movie deals with topics like how China carries a huge load of blame for the current state of the fisheries because their falsified, huge catch numbers were big enough to hide the actual global decline. It deals with the controversy around the infamous Worm et al. paper that concludes the seafood fish species will be depleted by 2048 (or, put another way, when I’m my father’s age we will be 1 year away from having no fish). It shows how Western countries buy fishing rights from poor countries and take all their fish. It discusses possible solutions: not eating endangered fish, not buying black market fish, marine reserves, and, you know, actually enforcing the fucking fishing laws. The movie also accused the Mitsubishi corporation of stockpiling frozen bluefin and then helping to drive the fish to extinction so it can profit from the reserves. I’m going to have to research what companies Mitsubishi owns (aside from the obvious) so I can boycott them. Oh, look. I’m not the only one who hates them. Surprising fact: Mitsubishi owns Nikon. Guess I won’t be getting one of those when I go camera shopping next week.

The things that made me cry, if you’re curious, were footage of sharks getting stabbed and a sea turtle on a long-line hook; a swordfish getting clubbed; and the long, awful scene of a tuna slaughter. The giant, beautiful fish were hooked through the head and thrown –ALIVE – gasping and bloody into the hold of a ship to die a slow, horrible death. Why am I seemingly the only person bothered by this?! Everyone gets up in arms about abattoirs and the seal hunt, but this sort of animal torture is okay? Next time you eat fish think about how it suffocated to death. And, hey, if you’re okay with that then keep eating. I’m okay with abattoirs and the seal hunt, so I shouldn’t be judging.

When I wasn’t crying, I was yelling at the TV. Oz had the misfortune of calling when I was about halfway through the movie. She had to listen to me rant about what a stupid species we are and how we don’t deserve this planet and we should all just leave. I think my rant then was worse than the one above.

The movie had it’s moments of levity. Unintentional, I’m sure. But I found it really funny when they showed Boris Worm biking through some posh west end neighbourhood on his way to Dalhousie. Then they showed him doing random rocky shore sampling. Does he even do field work? Or was the producer of the film just like, “We can’t keep showing you at the computer. Don’t you do anything else?”

At times the movie showed its low budget origins, but I think it serves its purpose and does a good job of getting its message across. It ended on a note of hope which is good, because while I have none I don’t necessarily want people to get depressed about this issue – I want them to get angry.

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