Isabelle Barbier
Isabelle Barbier
Apr 7, 2020 • 3 min read

While you’re probably confined in self-isolation, there’s no better time to ponder human existence and our species’ impact on the planet. Like viruses, oceans know no borders. We found three recent documentaries to stretch your understanding to the limits.

Sea of Shadows is a real-life docu-thriller uncovering shocking illegal poaching, corruption, and greed in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez as drug-lords turn new profits selling “cocaine of the sea” to Chinese traditional “medicine” shops.

PBS Frontline’s Plastic Wars sheds light on how “recycling” is marketed to the masses by the ever-expanding plastics industry.

Finally, don’t miss Sir David Attenborough’s A Life On Our Planet as he reflects his extraordinary lifetime of 93 years, and gives his honest assessment of the challenges we face.

🎥 Sea of Shadows (2019, 104 minutes)

“A suspenseful, wide-screen drama filled with gunfire, cartels and corruption." The New York Times

Produced by Leonardo Dicaprio, this film reveals how a Mexican cartel and Chinese traffickers work together poaching the rare totoaba in the Sea of Cortez (Baja California).

A single totoaba swim bladder can be sold for up to US $20,000 on the black market. It will later end up in Chinese soups and medicine. The Chinese fished the bahaba for decades and is now almost extinct. Their new target is the totoaba fish even though they are classified as “critically endangered” by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

As poachers target the totoaba with their nets, the nearly-extinct Vaquita porpoise are dying in their wake.

The Sea Shepherd plays a major role in patrolling waters at night while also recovering an astounding number of fishing nets. Please consider contributing to their worthy cause.

Eleven areas of Sea of Cortez are protected, but illegal fishing does still happen.

We recommend visiting Cabo Pulmo Marine Protected Area which is a great way to promote positive economic impact and preservation through tourism money.

 

🎥 Plastic Wars (2020, 54 minutes)

“There was never an enthusiastic belief that recycling was ultimately going to work in a significant way." Lewis Freeman, former VP of government affairs for the Society of the Plastics Industry

While plastic pollution is an obvious major threat to the oceans, the plastics industry is ever-expanding and projected to triple by 2050. Frontline reporter Laura Sullivan interviews current and former industry executives who promote the concept recycling as means to continue plastic production.

Is recycling economically viable? For most types of plastics, the answer is “no”. Only 10% of plastic produced has ever been recycled by current estimates.

From Oregon to Indonesia, Laura Sullivan investigates where “recycled” plastic is going.

Watch PBS Frontline’s Plastic Wars (YouTube)

 

🎥 A Life On Our Planet (to be released in 2020, 83 minutes)

“I’ve had the most extraordinary life. It’s only now that I appreciate how extraordinary." David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough’s soon-to-be-released documentary A Life On Our Planet might be his most impactful work. At 93 years old, the world famous naturalist and broadcaster has visited some of the wildest places on earth. He has also witnessed all along his lifetime some devastating changes.

In this documentary, Attenborough shares his “witness statement and his vision of the future”, giving clues on how humans can “work with nature, rather than against nature”.

Originally set to be released in theaters on April 16th, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the release to be online-only.

A Life on Our Planet will stream on Netflix starting April 19th, 2020.

More Documentaries About the Ocean?

Have a look at our list of documentaries every scuba diver should see.


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