Plastic Collective and Marine Biology Students React to the Hit Netflix Documentary and Provide Insight into the Inaccuracies Outlined by the Media

The new Netflix documentary “Seaspiracy” has gained a lot of attention following its release this week. The film, directed and presented by 27-year-old filmmaker Ali Tabrizi, questions the possibility of sustainable large-scale fisheries, and proclaims that commercial fishing industries are guilty of animal welfare abuses. The general census concludes; despite the film being insightful, there are several inaccuracies which question the credibility of the film.
Ali Tabrizi touches on quite a few topics throughout the duration of the Seaspiracy  documentary. The main points outlined are as follows:

1. The inhumane slaughter of animals

2. The exploitation of workers

3. The plastic pollution in our oceans

4. The deforestation of the ocean floor

5. The lack of government oversight and regulations

Whilst Ali shines a light on some evidence of anthropogenic significance on marine species, he also possesses an air of artificiality, resulting in some scenes to appear staged. This characteristic is of concern, due to the biased allegations made by him. The purpose of this article is to address some of the controversial topics surrounding Seaspiracy and provide our point of view on the topics. Plastic Collective has no intentions to undermine the makers of the film.

The film is successful in providing awareness on unsustainable fishing practices and animal mistreatment. However, there are a number of discrepancies throughout the film:

1. The discredit of ecological organisations

2. The privilege to lead a ‘plant-based’ diet

3. The neglection of realistic solutions

4. The disregard for scientific method


Figure 1.

Fishing tralwer boat depicted in Seaspiracy. Souirce: Seaspiracy Netflix Documentary.

Discredit of Ecological Organisations

Throughout the film Ali Tabrizi slanders multiple organisations when documenting his investigations. Whilst he brings up some important topics, he fails to recognise the shared goal for ocean preservation. Through this process, he severely damages the integrity of multiple hard-working organisations and activists. Environmental issues already struggle to gain traction in mainstream media (a point greatfully outlined in Seaspiracy), without Ali’s demonization to cause further harm.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), is an international non-profit organisation which produces guidelines and standards to allow fisheries to be managed sustainably. Ali interviews Callum Roberts, a Marine Scientist on the topic of the MSC and the impossibility for sustainable fisheries.

They have certified fisheries that produce astonishing levels of bycatch. Those are ignored because the level of kill is considered “sustainable” in itself…. The label on the tin isn’t worth a damn in some cases.
Callum Roberts

Marine Scientist , 00:49:10

The MSC responded, stating “This is wrong. One of the amazing things about our oceans is that fish stocks can recover and replenish if they are managed carefully for the long-term. Examples of where this has happened and stocks have come back from the brink include the Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Oceans or the recovery of Namibian hake, after years of overfishing by foreign fleets, or the increase in some of our major tuna stocks globally.”

Ali requested to have an interview with the MSC and was denied countless times. Finally, he approached them in person where he was “palmed off” once again.

The world’s largest sustainable seafood organisation, doesn’t want to talk to me about sustainable seafood.

Ali Tabrizi

Producer, 00:50:05

This concluded in the investigation into the Marine Stewardship Council’s funding where he declared the “conflict of interest”. In MSC’s response they stated “The MSC is an independent not-for-profit that was set up by WWF and Unilever more than 20 years ago because of concern about overfishing. We are not a commercial enterprise and we do not receive any income from fisheries or from the third-party certification of fisheries.” Ali was under the belief that MSC was funded by Unilever (once a big seafood retailer), resulting in widespread misinformation from the documentary. It is inaccuracies like this, which lead to the discrediting of multiple organisations, which actually share the same ocean preservation goal as Ali. Some critics declare Ali’s depiction of these organisations as ‘the enemy’.

Figure 2.

George Monbiot’s opinion on the BBC and conservation groups as ‘cowardice’ after watching Seaspiracy. Source: Seaspiracy’s Instagram Page.
Another organisation which featured in the documentary was the Plastic Pollution Coalition, who also responded to Seaspiracy’s depiction of their organisation “Unfortunately, although the filmmakers said they were interested in the work of Plastic Pollution Coalition, when we answered the questions, they bullied our staff and cherry-picked seconds of our comments to support their own narrative.” Plastic Pollution Coalition is an alliance of organisations working towards a world free of plastic pollution.

Ali interviewed the Plastic Pollution Coalition to investigate why none of the leading marine organisations and corporations tackling plastic pollution, were encouraging NOT using fishing gear. Jackie Nunez from the Plastic Pollution Coalition answered “Microplastics” when asked what the main source of plastic was in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Ali quickly followed with:

Well, the latest study actually showed that 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is fishing nets alone, and the majority of the other garbage we’re other types of fishing gear. So wouldn’t that be the majority?
Ali Tabrizi

Producer, 00:30:50

Even if unintentional, it appears Ali discredited the Plastic Pollution Coalition’s research, off the basis of Jackie’s answer. It is clear poor communication caused confusion between both parties, as it can be justified that fishing gear is defined as a ‘product’ as opposed to a ‘source’ of plastic pollution. Furthermore, it was this particular interview which highlighted Seaspiracy’s consistency to question ecological organisations integrity.

Since Plastic Collective is tackling plastic pollution, we’d like to acknowledge that fishing line and fishing gear is a major threat to marine species. The main issue with fishing gear is the fact it is produced from plastic with a density greater than water. Unfortunately this makes the product extremely detrimental to coral reefs and marine species, but also incredibly difficult to remove. New technologies and innovations will eventually allow us to travel to the depths of the ocean and remove this form of plastic. In the meantime, Plastic Collective and presumably many other organisations will target more accessible plastic pollution.

Figure 3.

Fishing gear entangling sea bird

Plant Base Privilege

The single best thing I could do every day, to protect the ocean and the marine life I loved, was to simply, not eat them.
Ali Tabrizi

Producer, 01:25:20

Ali painted a heart aching picture throughout the majority of the film with viable solutions being scarce. Ending with one solution, subjectively appearing biased and in favour of a plant based lifestyle. Arguably, there is considerable research concluding that a plant based lifestyle is more ethical and can help reduce carbon emissions compared with traditional diets. However, that lifestyle is NOT viable for everyone. Nutritional requirements, financial situation and cultural beliefs, impact the reality of this solution. Furthermore, individuals experiencing these adversities are at risk of exclusion from leading a more sustainable lifestyle as suggested by Ali. Besides eliminating fish or meat from our diets, no other solutions were suggested, or the possible solution presented was slandered. Seaspiracy left out the aspect of an intersectoral lens, especially when implying that eliminating fish from diets is a global solution. It would have been better to hear ‘if we have the option to give up fish or meat, we believe it is our moral responsibility to do so’ as opposed to an ‘everyone should be vegan’ narrative.

Figure 4.

Ali Tabrizi observing dried shark fins which will be sold for the delicacy; shark fin soup. Source: Seaspiracy Netflix Documentary.

Disregard for Scientific Method

Science and marine experts have commented on the reliability of the scientific method used to research the information for the Seaspiracy film. In an interview with the Independent Bryce Stewart a marine ecologist and fisheries biologist stated “Other ‘set ups’ made no sense – how can the marine life off the west coast of Africa be so abundant and so overfished (a real issue there) at the same time… On the flip side, it was good to highlight misconceptions about issues like the threat of plastic straws relative to many other factors. But where was climate change? I must have blinked and missed that. Please can we see a much more scientific and balanced film next time.”

Furthermore, many of the graphs used in the film lacked values on the x and y axis. This allows the graphs to be misinterpreted since they do not display the complete data. Although many graphs were correctly cited, some weren’t cited at all. Preventing viewers the opportunity to further their own knowledge and conduct their own research. Additionally, some of the data was outdated, with, in some cases the most recent dates being 2017. Although this does not seem like a long time ago, much has changed in those four years, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Figure 5.

Screengrab from Seaspiracy, showing the lack of numbers and citation on Shark Population Graph. Source: Seaspiracy Netflix Documentary 00:19:42
Seaspiracy is not an official scientific document so these rules do not always apply. The concern is, due to Seaspiracy’s prevalence in media, the importance for accurate and credible sources is paramount. Seaspiracy might be exposed to this criticism due to the outdated data, inconsistent citation and lack of values on analytical representations.

Neglection of Solutions

As stated previously, Seaspiracy fails to provide any realistic or viable solutions to sustainable fishing. In fact, Ali and his team believe the term “sustainable fishing” is unachievable, furthermore, believing most organisations are using the word ‘sustainable’ as a greenwashing technique.
There’s no such thing as a sustainable fishery. There’s simply not enough fish to justify that. Everything now is sustainable. It’s not sustainable. Just a marketing phrase, that’s all
Paul Watson

Founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, 00:45:05

The Marine Stewardship Council disputes this statement in their response “And what is even more amazing, is that if we take care of our fish stocks – they take care of us. Research shows that fish stocks that are well-managed and sustainable, are also more productive in the long-term, meaning there is more seafood for our growing global population, which is set to reach 10 billion by 2050.”

Removing fish from our global diet, does not confirm these animals will not continue to be slaughtered. Furthermore, removing fish from our diet does not tackle every issue outlined in the film, including, plastic pollution and climate change.  Collective action and education would have been a more inclusive and realistic approach to providing a solution to the issues presented in Seaspiracy. Being an active individual is important. You can:

    • Campaign to end whaling, the improvement of monitoring and shut down illegal fishing practices.
    • Campaign for more research into aquaculture and sustainable fisheries, and donate to existing researchers
    • Educate and spread awareness of these issues
    • Invest in seaweed and algae alternatives for food supplementations
    • Support local or small-scale fisheries (generally have less or limited bycatch)
    • Campaign for new regulations and standards to be developed regarding sustainable fishing practises
    • Support organisations and corporations tackling these issues globally
    • Reduce your plastic use and consumption, and participate in beach clean ups
    • Reduce fish and meat consumption

Ali Tabrizi and Seaspiracy, did a fantastic job of spreading awareness and educating the public on these issues. In fact, the amount of controversy surrounding Seaspiracy is actually increasing the amount of traction the film is gaining. However, Plastic Collective hopes the filmmakers acknowledge the damage caused to the ecological organisations addressed in the film.

You can support the organisations here:


Learn More!

Have other questions? Hi, I’m Krystal Greenwood, I am a Marine Biology student and the Marketing Officer here at Plastic Collective. We are happy to support you on this learning journey! Feel free to reach out to me directly ( at Plastic Collective, Australia.

In light of the documentary University of Washington has published a library of resources to combat ocean misinformation.

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