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Overall Rating
3.29

Awesome: 14.29%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average85.71%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 1 rating


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Last Journey for the Leatherback?
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by Chris Parry

"A small documentary that made me decide to boycott seafood."
3 stars

We get sent all kinds of films for review here at this website. Anything from short films to indies to studio monsters to niche documentaries that run for barely half an hour and run no risk of ever being caught inside a movie theater. That last category pretty much sums up Last Journey for the Leatherback, an environmental doco about the plight facing the giant Pacific leatherback sea turtle. It's strictly made for TV fare, the kind of film you generally see at small hippy gatherings where the converted shake their heads at how the masses just don't seem to care about the world in which they live. Thing is, though, Last Journey for the Leatherback told me some things I didn't know... and it has inspired me to be seafood free from this point forward.

I've always had a low opinion of the fishing industry. For mine, if your grandfather and father and brothers all made their living pulling food from the sea, and you want to continue that living so that your children can also take part in it, you have the most basic responsibility to not loot fishstocks to the point where they're at the brink of collapse. But the raping of the sea has gone on, regardless, for a hundred years. Worse, with every passing twelve-month period, the fishing industry seems to invent new ways to pillage while paying scant attention to the health of what it is they're pillaging.

But hey, seafood tastes great, so my outrage was forgotten as I tucked into shrimp, fish, scallops, crabs... mm-mmm.

I knew, of course, that one day this would have to stop. Only in the last year, the US government has decided to warn pregnant mothers and children away from eating fish, as the mercury levels in such food are now so high that regular consumption is considered unhealthy. When I heard that, I removed fish from my diet, but other seafood remained. I mean, who wants to live a life without shrimp?

Well, fear not, because shrimp is okay. According to this documentary, the shrimp fishing industry in the US came up with a plan that allows fishermen to gather in their prize without also grabbing thousands of turtles, dolphins, seals and other assorted non-edible animals. See, in the back of the shrimp nets sits a metal grate, tilted at an angle, with an 'escape hatch' which anything big enough to hit the grate can shoot out of, while the shrimp move on through to where they're collected without incident. Smart thinking!

And full credit to Last Journey for the Leatherback for highlighting such a move and not instead taking the polarizing 'eating fish is bad, all fishermen are the devil' stance that many before it (including myself) have. The point of Last Journey is not that fishing should be stopped (though it wouldn't be a bad idea to cottonball the baots for a few years, if you want my opinion), but that it can be done in smart ways that limit the collateral damage to threatened species.

The leatherback turtle has been around for god knows how many centuries, and it has always flourished in areas of South America and the Pacific. Always, that is, until the last thirty years, where longline and gillnet fishing has exacted a terrible toll on them. As the documentary explains, longline fishing is where thousands of baited hooks are thrown out the back of a trawler, with a view to catching swordfish or something similar in size, and they're pulled in whenever they get a snag. Unfortunately, turtles like bait just the same as swordfish do. As do seals, dolphins, sharks, and anything else that happens to be hungry. So what ends up happening is that these animals either get the line cut, so they can swim away with a giant hook embedded in their heads, or (more often) they're pulled aboard, dead, having been dragged for miles by their face.

Gillnets are worse. These are nets consisting of tiny microfibre lines that can barely be seen and are dragged across the ocean for miles, grabbing everything in their path. They're then pulled aboard and the prized catch is stored, while the 'extra' catch (the animals that can't be sold/eaten/aren't profitable enough to worry about) is thrown back into the ocean. This means thousands of dead fish, seals, turtles etc are literally thrown back to rot in the same water they just came out of.

Now, to be fair, the majority of this documentary doesn't just pound on the irresponsible fishing industry as being the cause of the turtle's plight. Human encroachment on traditional breeding areas (their eggs make tasty treats for some developing world folks), mercury poisoning in the water (thanks George), and the sheer impossibility of a young turtle's chances of success at the best of times (one in 1000 actually makes it to adulthood, even without our help) mean that the leather back turtle, nine feet long and weighing as much as 2000 lbs fully grown, is on a downward spiral towards extinction.

Think about it. These creatures have been around for, according to scientists, over 100 million years without change. They were on this planet when dinosaurs were fresh in the memory, and in just twenty years we've sent them to near extinction. Imagine if we found a herd of triceratops in the African wilderness - don't you think we'd spend billions of dollars ensuring their survival? Yet with the leatherback which has been around just as long, we throw nets into the water and kill them by the dozen so we can get tuna two cents cheaper than we could get it otherwise.

If the point of a documentary is to exact the will for change in an audience, Last Journey for the Leatherback has succeeded with me. Until the fishing industry gets responsible, they lose my few hundred bucks a year from this point forward.
Is this really the way we should be gathering our fish supply?

If you'd like to see for yourself what is happening to the giant leatherback, take a hike to http://www.seaturtles.org or call the Turtle Island Restoration Network on 1-800-859-SAVE. Sure, it's a long shot that you can really do anything substantial to help the big picture, but when was the last time you did something that actually helped the planet in some way? At least these guys are trying. Your turn.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11104&reviewer=1
originally posted: 10/26/04 06:17:55
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User Comments

12/03/04 Carole Allen So seafood for me either! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  N/A (NR)
  DVD: 02-Sep-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Stanley M. Minasian

Written by
  Stanley M. Minasian

Cast
  Documentary



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