Image Caption: From Left to Right: Yanga, Nathan, Brendan, Greg, Paige, Kaspar, Sam, Carin, Connor, Rebecca, Nathalie , Leila.

This piece was written for Oceaneers by Journalist Melanie Farrell from ‘Green Route ZA’ after the Seaspiracy screening, which Oceaneers recently hosted at the Labia cinema in Cape Town to celebrate the launch of our membership program.

Sitting in the Labia cinema (masked) watching Seaspiracy for the first time I wonder how we got here.

The ocean is dying (the world’s biggest carbon sink) because giant fishing vessels are trawling the bottom of the sea with huge nets, picking up every living thing in their path including dolphins, turtles,  & sharks that are later discarded as ‘by-catch’.

Apart from pillaging fish stocks the boats also leave a trail of fishing nets that end up being consumed by whales (leading to their deaths) or wrapped around other sea creatures, strangling them or leaving them unable to properly swim. I think this is probably why I hadn’t watched the movie till I was invited to the screening at the Labia.

If you haven’t watched Seaspiracy yet, please do. If you’ve heard about the controversy around the “sensationalisation” or “misrepresentation” of facts contained in the film let’s just take a deep breath. Maddie Rasmussen, who has volunteered on the Sea Shepherd, pointed out in a panel discussion after the screening: “I think we need to stay focused on what environmental organisations and filmmakers are trying to do: make the world a better place. Let’s not get caught up in fighting among ourselves.”

Maddie volunteered on the Sea Shepherd and was part of a team that boarded a fishing vessel off the coast of West Africa. She has seen first-hand workers forced to go to sea for years on end where they work long hours and experience abuse. “We boarded one boat where I was called aside because one of the crew told us he was a slave on the ship. He didn’t want his employers to see him speaking to us.”

Maddie is now in South Africa to look into the state of play in SA’s coastline. 

It’s an inconvenient truth but if we carry on with commercial fishing we are going to kill off the industry. There just won’t be enough fish in the sea.

Seaspiracy is not an easy, feel-good documentary, presented in a palatable way and you can feel the passion of the filmmaker who witnesses a ‘sustainable’ slaughter of dolphins (they are driven onto shore and beaten with poles). I cried more than once.

We seem to think we have a choice about when we want to stop killing the earth. Our dependence on fossil fuels, plastic and large-scale fishing and farming has to stop if we are going to carry on living on this planet. 

This is where the Oceaneers come in. A group of ‘salty sea lovers’ who organised the special screening of Seaspiracy at the Labia to bring together a passionate group of ocean-going people. 

The NPO, founded by Kaspar Paur, operates out of Muizenberg and its mission statement is to encourage people to eat less fish, particularly industrially fished and farmed animal products. 

“Our purpose is to take better care of our oceans (and the living planet as a whole), and we believe that our food choices play a huge role in that – especially when it comes to fish and other animal products,” says Kaspar.

Overfishing is not only killing our oceans but a slave trade linked to industrial fishing has been uncovered on the west coast of Africa and other parts of the world.

Before the movie, I sat outside the Labia cinema chatting to Razak from Thank Goodness Food, Tash from Nourish’d and vegan chef Kuna (who was at Nourish’d before moving over to the sweeter side with Razak at Thank Goodness).

It’s like the who’s who of vegan Cape Town and we’re salivating over the spread of sushi from Plushi Platters (plant-based sushi) who are sharing their fish-free sushi at the special screening.

Did the young filmmaker ambush people in their offices and ask them difficult to answer questions? Yes, he did. That’s called journalism. 

This is not about being “nice” anymore. Young people have had enough and I don’t blame them. 

My generation really messed things up for young people. We were so focused on more stuff (more cars, more homes, handbags, fridges and TVs) that we ignored scientists’ warnings about melting ice caps, ozone holes and rising sea level. Global warming has continued to heat up and the warnings are louder and yet still we carry on with our all-consuming lifestyle. 

In a panel discussion after the screening, Kaspar introduces Maddie Rasmussen, who volunteered on four Sea Shepherd expeditions, one of the founders of the Abalobi app, Jame Taylor – a big wave surfer and Plantiful Coach Muriel Gravenor, a vegan coach based in Cape Town. In Muriel’s blog post about watching Seaspiracy she says: “Seaspiracy isn’t perfect. But it exposes really important realities of the fishing industry that are profoundly and undeniably problematic. Tellingly, the film’s most vocal detractors are those who have financial interests in continuing with business as usual.”

Criticisms are discussed by the panel but, as Kaspar points out: “We need to listen to the message and not get bogged down in criticism.”

I tend to agree.

Cowspiracy got us to eat less meat, perhaps Seaspiracy will see us seeking out sustainably caught, local fish?

The special screening at the Labia was organised by Oceaneers, pulling together 14 Cape Town eco-conscious brands offering discounts to Oceaneers members – making it easier for them to #EatForTheOceans. 

Brands like Nourish’d in town and Observatory, Yoffi Falafel in Muizenberg, NUDE Foods in town and Newlands, Blended Health Café in Glencairn, Thank Goodness Foods, the Plantiful Coach, WaWa Wooden Surfboards, Harvest Café and Deli in Muizenberg and Newlands, Captain Fanplastic, Surf Emporium in Muizenberg, Cape Town Freediving, Sealand, Mahina,  

To find out more about Oceaneers, visit their website

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