Friday, June 12, 2009

the End of the Line

This past weekend I was asked by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to provide commentary following a special screening of an edited version of the new film, “The End of the Line.” I had not seen the film, and didn’t know much about it – other than that it dealt with the decline of the bluefin tuna fishery.

I was provided with a DVD of the edited film, which I popped into my laptop to view. For the next 23 minutes, I sat rapt by this hard-hitting documentary. It is visually gritty – beginning with a sequence of the ritual tuna slaughter at the Straits of Gibralter – and seems to put the viewer consistently in the position of witnessing things that we may not want to see.

I wondered how it would be to stand in front of an audience having just watched the film – a representative of the science that only gets passing mention, but someone concerned for the animals nonetheless. And of course, I got to find out the following day.

In both of the screenings (one Saturday and one Sunday), the crowds were small – just a dozen or so people in an auditorium that seats over 250 people. But those that saw the film seemed engaged and concerned. Nearly everyone had questions, ranging from informational (Are all the tunas from the same stock?) to concerned (What can we do to help stop this?) to incredulous (How can ICCAT let this happen?). It was refreshing to be talking to people who were already interested, rather than being in the more familiar position of having to get them interested.

In this sense, I think that the film does an amazing job. It raises awareness and causes concern about a topic that most people wouldn’t otherwise think about. As with any film of this nature, it will have its critics; some people will question the science that was used, and others will quarrel about whether blame is being put in the right place. But at the end of the day, it will have people talking about these issues. From my perspective, that is a fantastic first step towards making change. And change needs to happen.

To learn more about the film, visit