A fish story: ‘Seaspiracy’ blurs the cards

The “Seaspiracy” docudrama and its creators have weaved their way into important conversations already underway on behalf of the so-called “global fishing industry,” without stopping to pull together a few key facts.

First, there is no global fisheries management system. We are not part of the Federation of Planets, and this is not a science fiction scenario. We all live on planet Earth as citizens of independent nations, each managing its resources as such.

There is no single, globally recognized standard for sustainable fisheries, as fisheries management is nuanced to respond specifically to different regions, gears and target species. This approach is beneficial to fish biomass and habitat, not detrimental.

Many industry delegates responded to the docudrama’s misleading terms and half-truths. It will not be a recitation of these points. Here’s our resource guide for easy reference to other well-crafted industry responses.

Join me for a panel discussion led by fishermen from the Maine coastthe association

Truth is smothered in “Seaspiracy” through manipulation, misinformation, and trick-or-treating moments. Inciting fear instead of empowerment doesn’t help anyone be a better consumer or a better steward.

So let’s get to the real reason:

Live this plant-based life, all of you!

Once upon a time, fine spear points and fire were the pinnacle of human technological advancement. They allowed our ancestors to hunt and cook meat. The result was bigger, stronger and healthier brains and bodies.

Human civilization made dramatic technological leaps with the introduction of meat, then cooked meat, then dairy products as we became an agricultural species, dramatically improving our survival and birth rates.

In a nutshell, so to speak, eating meat was an evolutionary shortcut to optimal nutrients for brain development. And it still is. Brain function depends on cholesterol, which is easily obtained through animal protein.

I know it’s not sexy, and it certainly won’t make for a dramatic movie, but the secret to consistent healthy eating is to eat a variety of foods in moderation.

Several key nutrients are frequently missing from plant-based diets due to the care and knowledge needed to eat well without animal protein. Healthy vegans supplement vitamin B12 because it resides exclusively in animal protein. This is a diet that requires a certain privilege – access to supplements and plentiful fresh fruits and vegetables is not even possible for many Americans.

Eating animal protein provides nutrients quickly and easily. Yes, there are also vegan shortcuts (as shown in the movie). But relying on highly processed and expensive protein substitutes is arguably no healthier or more affordable than eating a few weekly servings of wild-caught fish. Eating plant-based is not simple and cannot yet be presented as a global failing for a healthy planet.

(A point the filmmaker seemed to acknowledge in a quote from a Guardian report: “He said he did not expect people facing poverty, hunger and malnutrition in the world are reducing or eliminating their fish consumption.”)

The most sought-after foods, even among vegans! – are either truly wild or farmed to be as close to nature as possible – heirloom plants, forest hogs, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and eggs. The best dairy products are supposed to be hormone-free, i.e. “natural”.

Wild fish exist in a pure state and should be cherished the same way we enjoy truffles, wild blueberries, and other forage and subsistence foods. Their habitats must be maintained for the benefit of the humans who depend on them.

If plastics, runoff and contaminants are a problem for the ocean and wild fish, let’s tackle these issues together. Shaming a single industry for a global pollution problem is regressive and unproductive.

I noted that there were no representatives from the US commercial fishing or seafood industries in this article. I think that says a lot about our fisheries and the standards that we have set and continue to push in the right direction. No industry is perfect, but we continue to improve and have every right to be proud of our products.

As industry advocates, we can continue to urge consumers to ask questions about their food (any): where does it come from? How was it harvested? Is it sustainable?

If you ask any American seafood these questions, you should get answers you can be proud of. Now let’s spread the word.

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