I think I might know where the director of the controversial Netflix documentary "Seaspiracy" could be headed next: Shrimpspiracy, anyone?
To be clear, I have no direct knowledge that Director Ali Tabrizi is even considering a follow up to Seaspiracy, but a post on the film’s Instagram account this week focuses in on the global shrimp farming sector, which, as we all know, has endured plenty of criticism over the years.
It's clear that shrimp is in Tabrizi's crosshairs, though. The seven-slide Instagram post is titled, “Why Shrimp Farming Is Completely Messed Up," and each slide tosses out a dark and dirty indictment of the sector. Before I detail those, let me just point out that the post as of Thursday afternoon had nearly 53,000 likes.
Using a similar model as the one employed in Seaspiracy, the Instagram post starts off with a bang: "Did you know the shrimp industry is responsible for slavery, murder and the destruction of some of the world's most important habitats?"
Subsequent slides build on this theme, tossing out assertions such as "shrimp farming is the leading driver of mangrove destruction," and "shrimp ponds become so diseased and saturated with chemical pollution from antibiotics and disinfectants that after just 5 - 10 years of production they are unusable and completely abandoned."
The post goes on to talk about human rights abuses in the shrimp industry, saying the sector is "rampant with slavery."
And, not surprisingly, the post ends with the suggestion that "boycotting these products from countries and retailers who stock these illicit products can be a powerful way of taking a stand." It specifically calls out shrimp from China and Thailand.
Combined, nearly 600,000 people follow Seaspiracy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and a petition it launched last week to encourage the UK and other governments to close off 30 percent of the ocean to commercial fishing has garnered nearly 300,000 signatures in roughly a week. Click here to see our full coverage of Seaspiracy.
Like it or not, the director and his film have a big following. Take a look at the comments on the Instagram post to get a feel for the commitment his followers have to the cause.
Farmed shrimp production worldwide is more than 4 million metric tons. The seafood is, and has been since the early 2000s, America's favorite. US per capita consumption sits around 4 pounds of shrimp per person, according to the most recent government data. Salmon is a distant second at around 2.5 pounds. In other words, there is a lot at stake.
We are in new era of communication that gives activists much more command over many forms of media. We are also in a period where we as content consumers curate the information we let seep into our brains. We follow the news channels that serve up the news we agree with. We do the same with podcasts and social media influencers. Our scope of reference and desire to investigate is being diminished, opening the door for unquestionable fealty to a cause.
Do you remember what happened to tilapia consumption in the US market a few years ago? Stories on Facebook in 2015, courtesy of places such as Natural Solutions Magazine, a page with 2.6 million likes, were the apparent start of a viral campaign against the fish.
And it worked. The next year US tilapia consumption began its years of steady declines, and only recently have we've seen signs of life from a consumption standpoint.
So what should be done? I suggest those of you along the entire shrimp supply chain assume Shrimpspiracy, or something like it, is coming and prepare. Don't get caught flat-footed like the commercial fishing and aquaculture industry did when Seaspiracy debuted.
You might want to check out this interview with Tabrizi and his wife and Seaspiracy assistant director, Lucy, to get a sense of how empowered they feel. Again, I have no idea if the producers are planning a sequel, but consider yourself warned.
Any comments, complaints, retaliatory rants, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
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