Watching ‘Blue’ made people angry (Dec18)

It was difficult to decide which part of the film made me more angry.  High on the the list were the scenes cutting the fins from living sharks and throwing them back into the sea. I think the film said that 60 million sharks are killed for their fins each year – but looking it up on the web, it’s estimated at 100-200 million.  And shark’s fin is just tasteless grissle.  When I was in Hong Kong, I realised that it’s tradition that’s responsible for so many fins being consumed.  There’s an expectation, that it will served at weddings and other important celebrations. I was told that hosts would ‘lose face’ by not having it on the menu.  Grrr…

Blue the Film also had a powerful scene where they pumped the stomachs of sea bird chicks and found them full of plastic, which had been fed to them by their parents.  Many of you will have seen the prediction that there will be more plastics in the sea than fish by 2050. But perhaps not so many people know that only 1% of the plastics in the sea are on the ocean surface.

The film was shown in Bridport and I was on a panel to discuss the issues it raised, at the end.  The audience wanted to vent their anger. They started with Nick Fisher, who true to his name, is an expert fisherman – who partly owns a small fishing trawler in Dorset, amongst other things.  He was trying to explain that not all fishing, and not even all trawling is actually bad – and recommended local fish above all.  He seemed quite relieved when the audience questions focused on plastics.

It didn’t surprise me that most of the frustration about plastics pollution was focused on food packaging and supermarkets. But I’m not convinced that tackling this will actually have very much impact on ocean plastics.  For a start, so much of the plastics getting into the sea are coming from countries, with large numbers of people without any waste collection facilities at all.

There were certainly people in the audience who felt we should be banning plastics.  But the problem is a lot more complex than that.  One scene showed a lady who had regularly swum in the Barrier reef over the last 50 years. She said that over half of coral reefs have disappeared in her lifetime. One of the key factors in this is global warming, in part caused by burning fossil fuels for energy. If we got rid of plastics, we’d substantially increase the amount of energy used – and so speed up climate change.

But there are things we can do to tackle the issues raised in this film.  They suggest joining Ocean Guardian, to see what you can do. And, if you want to check out the most sustainable fish species to eat have a look at the Marine Conservations’s Good Fish Guide.

On the plastics front, I think the best approach is working towards a closed loop system.  Clearly, cutting back on waste is the first step, but where plastics and other materials are used, we need to make sure that they’re used again and again, so they never end up in the waste stream – and certainly not in our seas.  See Loop Innovations (co-founded by my son) for some ideas on this.

No harm being a bit angry, but let’s focus on solutions that make sense, rather than venting our spleen and achieving nothing.

Turtles are often trapped in floating fishing nets