Bluefin tuna, the king of seafood, and the Atlantic cod are both endangered species, yet both are available still in restaurants and supermarkets. Scientists tells us that if nothing changes, the entire fishing industry will completely crash by 2048. And yet, within the EU, which recommended a 15 billion ton fishing limit (even though a 10 billion limit is what it would take to recharge fishing stocks), fishing factories blithely caught over 60 billion tons with no repercussion. Adapting the book by Charles Clover, director Rupert Murray ("Unknown White Male") illustrates globally how we are at "The End of the Line."
This sobering documentary is "Food, Inc." for fish. As that (superior) film is a shakeup for consumers who still believe in farms but learn how instead their food now comes from factories with heinous practices, so this film informs us that the romantic ideal of the local fisherman is being wiped out, along with tens of thousands of jobs, by trawlers that wreck destruction along ocean floors, tearing up coral reefs, whose mouths could envelop thirteen 747s. 10% of what they catch, including turtles, dolphins and sharks, is thrown back into the ocean, dead. We're told that fishing with a trawler is akin to turning over an agricultural field seven times in one year.
Ocean activist Ted Danson (TV's "Cheers") narrates, intercut with reports from Taylor and noted professors. Simple bar and line graphs are used to show the rapidity of seafood depletion akin to Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" presentations. Location shooting around the world includes the slaughter of tuna near Gibraltar, the fish markets of Tokyo, and trade in Senegal (where one beautiful shot from within the lapping surf shows us the local fishermen losing their livelihood pulling nets).
Also as in "Food, Inc.," we learn that Walmart is a surprising leader in providing consumers with sustainable fish. In complete reversal from "Food, Inc.," McDonald's claims that 90% of the seafood they serve is sustainable. Clover goes after famed sushi eatery Nobu about why they sell endangered species, but all Nobu's owner does is put an asterisk on his menu informing his consumers of same.
"The End of the Line" is beautifully shot and presents really alarming data, but it is not without problems. The film begins with magnificent pictures of brilliantly colored ocean life, yet the film is not really about tropical reefs but edible seafoods. It then goes on to posit the question as to what is 'the most vicious predator ocean's have ever know,' followed by threatening "Jaws"-like music and footage of sharks - how obvious - of course the answer is man who is then seen slaughtering them (at least they refrain from actually stating the obvious, instead just showing it). Liberal activist Danson refers to a local Senegalese as an 'artisanal' fisherman - what the hell? As if this guy hand crafts his catch or even has made a moral choice to do things the way he does. The film also barely mentions the dangers of fish farming and the environmental impact of losing our sea creatures, although they do do a good job talking about how the absence of one species can impact others in strange ways.
Still, "The End of the Line" is eye opening and consumers and Government agencies alike should use it to educate themselves. Taylor was proud of a boyhood salmon catch, but the salmon never ran that river again. He wondered why and has uncovered a global catastrophe.
Robin gives "The End of the Line" a B+.
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