The End of the Line

Imagine a world without fish.

Imagine a world without fish. That’s the premise of a new documentary titled The End of the Line (The Fish Film Company), which serves as a companion piece to Charles Clover’s recent book “The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and What We Eat.” A scathing expose of the world’s fishing industry, The End of the Line aims to draw attention to the far-reaching and often unintended consequences of overfishing, an issue that has received little notice in the mainstream media, especially in comparison to other environmental disasters like global warming.

Among other things, the film examines the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna (caused by increased demand for sushi), the impact of fisherman breaking quotas and fishing illegally, and the destructive effects of bottom trawling.  The documentary also contains a few surprises for the unenlightened; namely, the notion that fish farming is not an effective solution, in part because farmed fish are fed—what else?—fish meal.

In spite of the dire predictions made in the film—at current fishing rates we will see the end of most seafood by 2048, for instance—the protagonists are remarkably hopeful about the future.

“People ask me all the time, are you despairing or are you hopeful? And I say, absolutely hopeful,” notes Dr. Boris Worm, associate professor at Canada’s Dalhousie University, during an on-camera interview. “One … we have a much better understanding [of this problem] than even five years ago…. And there’s a track record, when we understand changes and they become public knowledge, they enter people’s consciousness, like with pollution, ozone depletion and climate change.”

Professor Callum Roberts, from the United Kingdom’s York University concurs, saying, “I think there’s this message of hope because there’s still time to turn the course of history. Although the players have taken poison, there’s still time to save them,” he quips.  

Ultimately, the film has three recommendations for the world’s citizens:

First, “ask before you buy,” and only eat seafood from a sustainable source. Look for a Marine Stewardship Council label, or a recommendation from another trusted guide, such as seafoodwatch.org.

Second, reach out to politicians to urge them to “respect the science [and] cut the fishing fleet.”

Finally, “Join the campaign for marine protected areas and responsible fishing.”