As the new Netflix documentary "Seaspiracy" continues to gain attention, seafood industry execs, scientists and NGOs have taken to LinkedIn and other social media platforms to push back against the film's criticism of the sector, its methodology, and its call for a shift to vegan diets.
The documentary, which was released on March 24, was produced by Kip Andersen, the man behind other documentaries, including "Cowspiracy," "The Sustainability Secret," and "What the Health."
Andersen, owner of a grow-light and hydroponic systems supplier, founded the non-profit Animals United Movement in 2010, which is the vehicle used for financing the documentaries, under the name A.U.M. Films.
The documentary, narrated by Ali Tabrizi, a 27-year-old vegan from southeast England, touches on a range of issues facing the seafood sector, from forced labor to plastics to whaling. The film is currently one of the most-watched in certain Netflix markets.
Support from multiple celebrities, plant-based companies, animal activists and other NGOs has poured in over social media.
Though not as vocal, a large number of other groups -- both those operating in the industry as well as third-party certification schemes and scientists -- are criticizing some of the film's assertions.
Days after the debut of "Seaspiracy," the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) -- portrayed as a pay-to-play scheme that does nothing to protect marine resources -- issued its response to the film after declining to be interviewed by the film's director.
The MSC refuted claims that it is in the pocket of the fishing industry, and that the MSC certification does not address bycatch.
The group, however, said it does find some common ground with the film.
"While we disagree with much of what the Seaspiracy documentary-makers say, one thing we do agree with is that there is a crisis of overfishing in our oceans," the MSC wrote.
Greenpeace UK's Will McCallum disagreed with the documentary's solution to the issues facing the seafood industry, saying that "turning vegan can't be the only answer."
"A campaign that focuses only on veganism ignores the billions of people that depend on the oceans for survival," said McCallum, head of oceans at Greenpeace UK.
"And without finding a lasting solution that looks after people and planet, our oceans don’t stand a chance."
Instead, McCallum calls for a Global Ocean Treaty as a means to challenge the issue at hand.
Other NGOs weighed in as well, including campaign group Oceana.
"[C]hoosing to abstain from consuming seafood is not a realistic choice for the hundreds of millions of people around the world who depend on coastal fisheries – many of whom are also facing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition," the group said.
Industry and certifications push back
The National Fisheries Institute (NFI), which was not mentioned in the documentary or approached by the film's producers, last week issued its response to the film, noting that one of the central claims -- that oceans would be devoid of fish by 2048 -- "is based on a completely debunked 2006 statistic, refuted by none other than the author of the original study."
It noted that a later study in the journal Science also refuted the statistic in 2009.
NFI concludes its assessment of the film by saying, "the film sputters to a close with what is essentially a predictable commercial for highly processed plant-based alternative products."
UK trade body Seafish highlighted "10 reasons to feel good about seafood in the United Kingdom," which include health benefits, the ease of buying responsibly sourced product in the region, and low carbon footprint options.
In another response, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) noted the documentary fails to mention aquaculture's role in feeding the population.
The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), which runs certification scheme Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), also highlighted that aquaculture has a key role in a sustainable protein supply.
Amy Novogratz, managing partner at global investment fund Aqua-Spark, said the documentary excludes efforts underway by entrepreneurs, farmers, environmentalists and technologists, "who are making aquaculture one of the most interesting and exciting ways to save our ocean."
Adriana Sanchez, responsible seafood strategy director with Iberostar Group, joked she "can't wait for #plantspiracy and #waterspiracy."
Jose Villalon, Nutreco's corporate sustainability director, sees the documentary as "one-sided, inaccurate and full of decade-old material content," he said in a comment on LinkedIn.
"I understand the timing was complicated. At any rate, the film is a great example of poor journalistic interest to find truth," Villalon said.
"It’s my perception that the truth is generally found somewhere in the middle. This film came nowhere close to finding it. I hope reasonable viewers will spot this bias."
Hear IntraFish journalists discuss the documentary here: