A last-ditch campaign to save the bluefin tuna is fast gathering support in Britain and will soon become a political and environmental issue in Australia where the species is being fished with indiscriminate abandon for super profits.
London’s celebrity chefs are taking the endangered fish off their menus and Waitrose supermarket has banned its sale. Fishmongers and restaurateurs throughout the country are being assailed - or so we read - by customers asking, “Do you source your fish sustainably?”
Japan, where a single fish can command more than $120,000, is expected to oppose the move. Let’s see what that gallant protector of the whale, Peter Garrett, decides to do.
The issue of overfishing has come to the fore in the past month thanks to the release of the critically acclaimed documentary The End of the Line, based on the award-winning book by London Daily Telegraph journalist Charles Clover. “Everybody knows there’s no fish left in the sea,” says Clover. “They probably caught them while we were filming it.”
Mature spawners are fished out in UK waters, and are fast disappearing in the Mediterranean, where bluefin are still being landed at a rate of at least 60,000 tonnes a year - three times the legal limit, with organised crime with Mafia links said to be involved.
Public concern has led to a significant shift in policy in Britain and France. Although France has Europe’s biggest bluefin fishing fleet, President Nicholas Sarkozy last month spoke out for the need to protect fishing stocks. “Ours is the last generation with the ability to take action before it’s too late,” he said.
British fisheries minister Huw Irranca-Davies followed suit, saying he will lobby the United States and other countries to support the ban on sales of bluefin.
The film also shows how African coastal people, long dependent on fish, are losing their food supply to big commercial fisheries. And it demonstrates that fish farming, with its need for massive supplies of fish food, is no solution to the problem.
Scientists interviewed in the documentary predict that if fishing continues unchecked, the population of the oceans will be wiped out by 2048.
The End of the Line is an independent film made with the support of organisations including WWF, the Marine Conservation Society, Channel 4’s Britdoc Foundation and charitable foundations, and backed nationally by Waitrose.
It initiated a citizens’ campaign to change fish sales practices through consumer action. Jamie Oliver didn’t take tuna off his menus until clients started raising the issue. Japanese chain Nobu attracted spirited protests when it refused to stop serving tuna sushi in its London outlets.
The film-makers themselves are leading the campaign. Producer Claire Lewis, who says working on the project changed her life, doesn’t eat anywhere without first asking: “Can you tell me where your fish comes from?”
Author Charles Clover has been campaigning on the issue for five years now. “We must stop thinking of our oceans as a food factory,” he says, “and realise that they thrive as a huge and complex marine environment.
“We must act now to protect the sea from rampant overfishing so that there will be fish in the sea for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
This documentary, which has the hard-hitting quality of Michael Moore’s movies, deserves to be released in Australia but no distributor has yet stepped forward.
In the past week Los Angeles blog Curbed LA has been pondering the question we set about our set of images taken on the streets of LA. Adrian Glick Kudler wanted to know what the connection between them was. You can find out here.
About.com ran an extensive preview of The End of the Line by Jennifer Merin. She writes that the documentary is “a beautifully shot film that alerts audiences to the devastating impact overfishing has on our oceans.”
Tiny Choices, a blog about the little decisions that people have to make everyday, gave away tickets for the beach screening of the film on Governors Island in New York.
The Star Tribune, Minnesota, reviewed the film. Colin Covert writes: “Some marine populations ‘are no longer renewable because of what we have done to them,’ cautions London Daily Telegraph correspondent Charles Clover, whose work inspired this fact-packed film. With commendable clarity, it lays out the data.”
More on the song Coma by Kevin Heard and Thinbuckle. It turns out that none other than Lou Reed played guitar and sang backing vocals on the track. You can find further details on the Brooklyn Vegan blog.
Nicholas Lander, in a feature for the Financial Times, looked into the supply of fish to restaurants. He sent a menu from Oliveto restaurant in Oakland, California, to Charles Clover for comment, who said that “it was ‘a menu from the future, information-wise; [but it's a] shame about the halibut and swordfish’.”
MPR News in Minnesota, also reviews the film. Euan Kerr says: “The End of the Line, Rupert Murray’s troubling documentary about the impact of overfishing, explores the subject at great length . . . . It’s a thought-provoking film.”
Minnesota entertainment site City Pages draws together a brief summary of local coverage for The End of the Line, mentioning the 76% positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
Finally this week, the LA Times says it has had enough of ‘The world is horrible’ docs.
“Don’t get us wrong, we love that movies like the dolphin-slaying expose “The Cove” and the alarming over-fishing tale “The End of the Line” are being made - they’re a vital social service. But we’re overwhelmed. Keep making the films; but for now can we just change our behavior without seeing them? We’ll catch up with all these films later, but we’re sad enough already.”
While reviewing the coverage that The End of the Line has received over the past months we came across a number of articles and stories that we hadn’t included in our weekly news round-ups.
To put this right, we have pulled together all the articles that slipped through the net, below.
You can see what the media and the blogosphere have had to say about The End of the Line on our new Media Coverage page.
Back in May Endangered New Jersey blog carried a preview of the film. It said: “The film aims to be more than just a doomsday warning. It offers real, practical solutions that are simple and do-able.”
Total Film reviewed the movie, giving it 3 stars. Jamie Russell said: “[Rupert] Murray, working from Brit journo Charles Clover’s book, accentuates the positive with a closing ‘get involved’ sermon about our eating habits.”
Writing in The Independent in an article on bluefin tuna entitled ‘This is the blue whale of our time‘, Charles Clover said: “The collapse of the bluefin now being predicted is a crisis of Atlantic proportions.”
Also in The Independent Martin Hickman reported on Mitsubishi’s efforts to stockpile bluefin tuna.
The Gazette, a regional paper covering Colchester in Essex, focused on the need for change in fishing legislation.
While an article in The Japan Times showed the reach that the film has had. William Hollingsworth highlighted the contradictions in Nobu’s bluefin tuna policy.
One that we should not have missed was Nobu -no brainer, by our very own Willie MacKenzie of Greenpeace UK, who has been doing tremendous work for The End of the Line.
Caterer Search reported on the efforts by restaurant owner Tom Aikins, who teamed up with the campaign, to change the way professional chefs think about seafood.
He said: “All chefs need to understand where their fish comes from, help with traceability of any fish products, make sure they are not serving endangered species”
The New York Post focused on the storm caused by the film about Nobu, especially the response of celebrities such as Kate Goldsmith and Sienna Miller.
The RSPB, understandably, concentrated on the damage that longline fishing does to seabirds, in its preview of the film.
The Daily Mail covered the move by Pret a Manger to stop using unsustainable tuna.
As did The Sunday Times.
The Hampshire Chronicle carried a lengthy preview of the film, featuring quotes from The End of the Line producer Claire Lewis. She said: “I read Charles Clover’s book and it changed my view of the ocean overnight. I rang him and the rest is history.”
On World Ocean’s Day, the Telegraph ran a preview of the film. As did The Guardian, who also focused on Pret a Manger’s move away from unsustainable seafood.
Greenpeace’s Willie Mackenzie continued to publicise the film, outlining the campaign’s activities in the run up to World Ocean’s Day.
Birdlife International said of the release of the film: “Today, on World Oceans Day, a powerful new film - The End of the Line - highlights the problems of over-fishing.”
In The Times, Ocean’s Correspondent Frank Pope, wrote: “Explanations do not get much more powerful than the film The End of the Line, which looks at the effect of overfishing, and which is being shown today, World Oceans Day, at cinemas nationwide.”
Environment news site Ecorazzi focused their attention on the celebrity response to Nobu’s decision to keep bluefin tuna on the menu.
The celebrity party after the 8th June screenings featured in the London Evening Standard.
Sam Leith, writing in the London Evening Standard, hailed Charles Clover as a ‘hero’. However, it is because of Sam’s love of eating tuna that he is concerned about it’s possible extinction.
The BBC explored a number of the issues that are raised in the film, especially the threat to bluefin tuna. Stephen Dowling quotes Charles Clover as saying: “Bluefin tuna has become the poster boy for the overfishing campaign. It’s on the buffers - it’s really on the slide down now.”
Daniel Kessler of Greenpeace, writing in the Huffington Post, praised the film: “Nobu’s arrogant denial of the reality of our mutual challenge - the continual decline of the health of our oceans - is a serious problem.”
He went on to say: “Greenpeace has already “outed” Nobu on their unsustainable practices (this interaction is featured in the forthcoming documentary The End of the Line, based on the excellent book by Charles Clover).”
Another Greenpeace blogger, Adele, was also very impressed, saying: “I was at the [UK] premiere screening of the film (a documentary based on the book by journalist Charles Clover) here in London, and boy, it took me back. It was like Defending Our Oceans: The Movie.”
Financial news organisation Bloomberg concentrated on the Pret a Manger’s assertion that prices will not go up after their move to sustainable tuna.
Writing in Newsweek, Daniel Stone said: “At current capacity, the world’s fishing fleet could catch four times more fish each year than are actually alive in the oceans.
“This sad fact is the central point of a new documentary released today, End of The Line, an astute, powerful and discomforting look at what we’ve done to the world’s oceans.”
Sylvia Patterson, writing in the Sunday Herald, said that for her, “a world without fish is a world where there’s nowt for tea.”
“The End of the Line has arrived all round, as the just-released film globally acknowledged to be the Inconvenient Truth of the oceans thunders home its staggering facts about ‘the greatest environmental disaster that no-one’s heard of’.”
The London Paper reported on the reasons behind Pret a Manager’s change in tuna sourcing policy: “Metcalfe changed the store’s policy on tuna after seeing The End of the Line, the shocking documentary on the global fishing business.
“He saw the film five months ago and was so disturbed, he arranged a private viewing for 40 of the company’s senior managers at a private cinema in London four days later. ‘I felt I had a responsibility,’ he says. ‘Knowledge is power’.”
The Big Issue in Scotland reported the angry reaction to the film from Scottish fishermen, who said it was “excessively gloomy and over-simplistic”.
There was further coverage of The End of the Line last week - both reviews of the film and related conservation news stories.
The new study by Boris Worm and Ray Hilborn, who both appear in the film, that showed that fish stocks in certain areas had recovered slightly due to conservation measures was widely covered. The impact of the film was included in a number of these reports.
Fork in the Road, the food blog from Village Voice website in New York, highlighted the study, published in Science, saying there was good news and bad news. The bad news is still pretty bad . . . 63% of assessed fish stocks worldwide still require rebuilding.”
Gloucester Times also covers the story, referencing the film, it says: “Management efforts . . . have been effective in reversing declines caused by chronic overfishing.
“The report . . . is no cause for celebration or let-up in the recovery programs, even in the most advanced systems.”
Writing in Salon, Katharine Mieszkowski discusses the current efforts to save bluefin tuna, mentioning the part the film has played in raising the profile of the issue. However, it is referred to as ‘the muckracking documentary, The End of the Line’.
Another issue connected with the film that was in the news was the question of what advice the UK government will issue on how much fish we should be eating.
MPs from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said in a statement that the government “should consider the wisdom of continuing to advise consumers to eat at least two portions of fish a week at a time when the ability of the marine environment to meet this demand is questionable”.
Meatless in Miami, one of the Miami New Times’s Short Order food blogs, gives the film a mention. Lauren Raskine, says: “Based on the book by UK journalist Charles Clover who has extensively researched [our consumption of seafood, the film] asserts 1.2 billion people will potentially starve and it won’t be pretty, folks.”
The Pathways to Abundant Living blog reviews the film. It says: “The End of the Line is not against all fishing or eating fish. Instead it advocates a responsible attitude towards endangered and over-exploited species of fish
Canadian magazine Common Ground also carries a review The End of the Line. Robert Alstead writes: “Rupert Murray’s team brings memorable footage from around the world to connect the dots between consumer tastes and ocean depletion.
“The film is grimly fascinating and offers prescriptions for better fisheries management.”
Finally for this week, Local Vertical blog reports that Charles Clover’s book The End of the Line has been the inspiration for a song.
Entitled Coma, it is by Kevin Hearn & Thin Buckle, and is taken from their new album Havana Winter, which is available from Kevin Hearn.com. You can listen to it here.