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[Review] ‘Seaspiracy’ Dives Deep Into ‘Bycatch’ and ‘Dolphin-Safe’ Tuna Scandals


Here’s one of the most shocking things that folks (including the film’s own director) are learning from Netflix’s Seaspiracy: If you wouldn’t eat shark fins or dolphins, you shouldn’t eat tuna or shrimp. The reason why? One word euphemism—“bycatch,” a speciesist term implying that one animal should die for humans to eat and another should be discarded back into the ocean (oftentimes dead), even though all animals deserve to live peacefully in their homes.

What Is ‘Bycatch’? and Why Is ‘Bycatch’ a Problem?

The fishing industry clings to the term “bycatch” just as the meat industry tries to maintain that it “harvests” animals (although in reality, we know they’re being slaughtered) and hunters attempt to use “game animals” and “the ones whose heads I want to hang on my wall” synonymously. Really, “bycatch” is the fishing industry’s shady, trivialized way of referring to the hundreds of thousands of its invisible victims: the dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, whales, octopuses, rays, seals, birds, and other “nontarget” species who are caught or become entangled in fishing nets—like those targeting tuna or shrimp—and are discarded, left to die.

“One of the most shocking things that most people don’t realize is that the greatest threat to whales and dolphins is commercial fishing. Over 300,000 whales and dolphins are killed every single year as ‘bycatch’ of industrial fishing,” Sea Shepherd Captain Peter Hammarstedt points out in the film. 

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