The British filmmaker behind controversial Netflix documentary Seaspiracy says he will be ‘haunted forever’ by the harrowing sights and smells onboard the ‘floating slaughterhouses’ he exposed during the hard-hitting new movie.
Ali Tabrizi, who was born in Kent and studied at Canterbury College, initially planned to make a documentary about the wonders of the ocean sparked by his passion for marine life developed since childhood.
But the staunch vegan, whose chef father Saeed and ex-NHS carer mother Shaine run a Vegan cake business in Ramsgate, changed tact after discovering the growing trend of whales being found washed up on beaches with their guts filled with plastic.
He instead focused on investigating the root of the problem, the global fishing industry, which led to exposing even darker industry secrets and apparent high level corruption using horrific secret camera footage which has left viewers squirming.
Speaking to MailOnline about the most horrifying behind the scenes moments witnessed during five years of filming, Tabrizi, 27, recalls: ‘The worst stench I experienced while filming was probably the fishing trawlers we boarded.
‘I call them floating slaughterhouses. The wooden decks were thick with the grime of years of fish guts and blood.’
Ali Tabrizi’s hit Netflix environmental documentary Seaspiracy aired this March after five years of toil. Pictured, filming the annual whale hunt in the Faroe Islands known as the ‘grind’
The movie, which exposes the ‘corrupt’ fishing industry as one the biggest threats to our oceans, has garnered hundreds of millions of views in close to 50 countries, with celebrities including Bryan Adams among its supporters. Pictured, a tuna haul in Japan
abrizi says it was shocking ‘learning just how far the fishing industry’s long shadow stretched’ as he trekked around the world, from Asia to Africa and various spots in-between, putting his own life at risk at certain points
Tabrizi, whose passion for the environment also began as a child collecting plastic from Kent beaches, also recalled the lice-infested salmon he found rotting at a fish farm in Scotland which was equally putrid and although the sight of him wading in whale blood during a traditional hunt in the Faroe Islands looked grotesque, the odor was manageable and more ‘like fishy human blood – quite metallic’.
The documentary takes viewers on a stomach-churning 90-minute journey into what really goes into our food, when seafood is concerned.
After concerns over beached whales quashed his romantic take on ocean life, he started investigating the fishing industry as a source of the problem with nylon ghost nets acting as silent killers, strangling everything from coral reefs to turtles.
This then led him down a rabbit hole, with some of his other focuses including sea lice infestations amid fish farms, shark finning, slave labour at sea, pirate fishing, dolphin hunts in Taiji, Japan, and the admirable work of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Tabrizi says it was shocking ‘learning just how far the fishing industry’s long shadow stretched’ as he trekked around the world, from Asia to Africa and various spots in-between, putting his own life at risk at certain points.
An image showing a a swathe of fishing boats off the coast of Indonesia. In Seaspiracy, it’s predicted that our oceans will be depleted of stocks by 2048
Tabrizi looking at a shark fin for sale at a market in Asia. He saw that after the sharks are finned, their bodies are discarded
Another thing Tabrizi exposes during the documentary is how official-looking food labelling isn’t always what it seems
He says: ‘The devastation ranges from the extinction of marine life, to the decimation of the seafloor and mangrove habitat, and even to slavery and forced labour on fishing vessels.’
Tabrizi also exposes how food labelling isn’t always what it seems.
An interview with Mark J. Palmer, the founder of Dolphin Safe Tuna and the Earth Island Institution, reveals it is impossible to guarantee no dolphins have been killed while fishing for the tuna in the can – even though his label states exactly that.
Tabrizi married Australian filmmaker Lucy Manning (pictured) in 2015 and the couple has a young son together
Tabrizi explains: ‘Learning that there was no guarantee that ‘dolphin safe’ tuna is in fact dolphin-safe, and that sustainable labels on seafood are often meaningless in terms of actual marine conservation and protection, felt like a huge betrayal.’
Since Seaspiracy first aired in March and streamed in over 50 countries, Tabrizi has experienced backlash from ‘those whose paychecks come from the fishing industry’ – with many attempting to downplay the facts of the film.
The documentary gives a depressing projection that we could virtually see empty oceans by the year 2048 but many critics have said this figure is blown out of proportion.
Addressing his detractors, Tabrizi says: ‘Even before the film premiered there was a leaked document which exposed America’s National Fisheries Institute’s plans to downplay the facts of the film which says quite a bit.
‘Then many people have said the 2048 date of our oceans being empty is over exaggerated.
‘But the original study I reference in the film has never been retracted. It might be more of a rough prediction but even if the date stands as 2078, fish populations are going in the wrong direction, and the overall message of the film remains the same.
‘The splitting of hairs over minor differences can create the distraction needed for the most destructive industry in our oceans to continue with business as usual.’
Tabrizi is now working hard to ensure that his findings lead to a policy shift within the industry.
A behind the scenes shot of Tabrizi in Taiji, Japan after he trying to record the underwater sounds of dolphins in the ‘killing cove’. The filmmaker says of the incident: ‘Before I was in the water long, approximately ten police showed up. But thankfully they were all a friendly bunch’
Now that his Seaspiracy documentary has aired, Tabrizi is working hard to ensure that his findings lead to some kind of policy shift within the industry
He has launched a change.org campaign along with his partner and co-director Lucy, mother of his baby son, asking for the UK’s environment secretary George Eustice to create and enforce ‘no-catch marine reserves in at least 30 per cent of UK waters.
The petition page states that there are currently only four ‘no-catch’ zones around the UK, and only four per cent of UK waters have any protection at all.
World leaders are also encouraged to ‘join forces’ in a bid to save sea life populations reaching a ‘state of collapse’.
One thing that comes across with Tabrizi is that he is very down to earth and that the whole point of making the documentary was to highlight a ‘crisis’, not to make money.
After becoming a father last year, he also wants to set an example to his child that ‘dad is following his heart and is doing what he believes is the right thing to do, despite the challenges’.
Tabrizi has launched a change.org campaign along with his partner and co-director Lucy asking for the UK’s environment secretary George Eustice to create and enforce ‘no-catch marine reserves in at least 30 per cent of UK waters. World leaders are also encouraged to ‘join forces’ in a bid to save sea life populations reaching a ‘state of collapse’
Asked what we can do to help the situation, Tabrizi’s response is the same as the conclusion of his film: to try and move to a plant-based diet
Asked what we can do to help the situation, Tabrizi’s response is the same as the conclusion of his film: to try and move to a plant-based diet.
He concludes: ‘By far the most powerful thing we can all do every single day to protect not just our ocean and its inhabitants, but the entire planet, would be to shift towards a plant-based diet.
‘The great news about this is that according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organisation of nutrition professionals, not only are well planned vegan diets appropriate for all stages of the life cycle (pregnancy, infancy, childhood, etc), but can also help reduce the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, obesity, and some types of cancer.
‘As well as this, researchers at the University of Oxford found that cutting animal products from our diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to 73 per cent.
‘When we stop thinking of fish as destined to swim only in lemon slices and butter, and instead as invaluable beings which inhabit the earth with us and play a vital role in healthy ecosystems, we can begin to restore the beauty of our oceans once again.’