🌊 What I learnt from Seaspiracy & A Plastic Ocean By Elan Rees-Lewis

Tuesday 18-05-2021 - 12:05

Seaspiracy and A Plastic Ocean are two documentaries looking at the state of our oceans. INSPIRE Intern Elan watched them both and shares what she learned. Want to watch for yourself? Both documentaries are available on Netflix.

Documentary Poster. Seaspiracy Text on birds eye view of a deep ocean wave


I have certainly got no desire to eat the fresh tuna sitting in my fridge after watching Netflix’s shocking new documentary Seaspiracy. The film shows the devastating impact commercial fishing is having on the marine life – such as sharks, dolphins, and whales – that is key to the survival of the oceans. It also exposes the corrupt world of the multibillion-dollar seafood industry I never knew existed. What we discover over the 90 minutes is a shocking indictment of the whole commercial fishing industry. Its practices are even more damaging than plastic and oil pollution, and could result in empty oceans by 2048, from overfishing and marine ecosystem destruction.  

Five thousand fish are killed per minute. That is 2.7 billion a year. 

In the documentary, it is claimed that only 0.03 per cent of it is from drinking straws, while fishing equipment makes up a huge percentage of the waste – including 46 per cent of that in the Great Pacific garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean. 

To be completely honest, I was quite naïve when it came to waste and overfishing. I watched Seaspircy first, and I was completely ‘gobsmacked’. It was a real eye opener; it is mostly based in India, about the industry of mass fishing. The sustainability secret reveals the hugely damaging impact of commercial fishing. 

 A disturbing documentary, but definitely an eye-opener. My main take is:  

  • What is happening to our seas and oceans goes deeper than just microplastics; it involves commercial fishing and the perils that goes with. Examples of this include bycatch or accidental catch that has killed 50 million sharks, or trawling which has destroyed 3.9 billion acres of seafloor, or illegal fishing, or fish farming, or slavery.  
  • We'll have empty oceans by 2048 if we don't reverse course.  
  • Activist organizations that should monitor those responsible for the appalling damage are under the thumb of the commercial fishing industry, which begs the question: who watches the watchers?  

If these are the problems, can sustainable fishing be the cure? What is also revelatory is the role of our oceans in climate change. This is because our oceans are the biggest carbon sink there is, as marine mammals capture carbon when they go to the surface to breathe. 


Documentary Poster. Beluga whale playing with a plastic bottle surrounding the documentary title, A Plastic Ocean

A Plastic Ocean 

This documentary shows the gigantic accumulation of floating plastic debris in the oceans and highlights the consequences of this form of pollution on the marine environment. This film was made in 2017, but probably to date, the most successful documentary on the scale of the environmental disaster that affects all the oceans of the globe. Especially for those who wants to learn about the situation.  

A Plastic Ocean documents the newest science, proving how plastics, once they enter the oceans, break up into small particulates that enter the food chain where they attract toxins like a magnet. These toxins are stored in sea animals' fatty tissues, and eventually consumed by us. 

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean is a gyre of plastic debris in the north-central Pacific Ocean. It is the largest accumulation of plastic in the world. 

What starts off as an adventure to film the blue whale, the largest animal on the planet, leads to the shocking discovery of a thick layer of plastic debris floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Craig, alongside Tanya Streeter, a world record-breaking free diver and environmental activist, then travel across the globe to report on the havoc caused by decades of plastic use. The film presents beautiful shots of the marine environment. This contrasts with footage of heavily polluted cities and dumps full of plastic rubbish. During the film, experts are interviewed to provide further insight into some of the problems derived from plastic.  

Throughout the film, we are shown footage of numerous marine species that have been affected by plastic debris. Marine animals and sea birds often mistake floating plastic for food. Large pieces of plastic, when eaten, can obstruct the animals’ digestive tracts, essentially starving them to death. 

When smaller “microplastics” are ingested, toxins are released and become stored in their tissue. These toxins accumulate up the food chain, and can eventually end up on our dinner tables. The consumption of the contaminated seafood can cause many health problems, including cancer, immune system problems, and even childhood developmental issues. This is a major problem, as almost a fifth of the world’s population relies on the ocean for their primary source of protein. Society’s huge appetite for plastic is literally poisoning us. 


These two documentaries are looking on different aspects that are killing our ocean. Not only the ocean, but also the animals that live in it. Seaspiracy focuses on the multibillion-dollar seafood industry and mass fishing, whilst A Plastic Ocean concentrates on the amount of plastic waste by humans gets dumped into the ocean. Both documentaries are very much eye-opening films, and both discuss the reality of our oceans today.  

It is up to us to embrace these changes and move away from the plastic and mass fishing culture. We need to get this problem under control, as it will only become worse as the human population increases. Our marine animals deserve to live in a blue and wonderful ocean.  


By Elan Rees-Lewis

Events & Campaigns Intern – Carmarthen



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