I’m delighted to say that the feature documentary I worked on for the past six years, The Last Ocean, has just been released in 24 countries and seven different languages through iTunes and a couple of other video on demand platforms, Cineqlic and Distrify. The film celebrates one of last great ocean wildernesses on Earth, the Ross Sea in the Antarctic, and follows the campaign to protect it.
That campaign which now involves major NGO’s – including Greenpeace –is at a crucial stage. In six weeks’ time 25 nations will gather in Bremerhaven, Germany to decide on the fate of marine protection in the in the Ross Sea. This meeting is our one big opportunity to do something special in the Ross Sea.
The proposal they will consider has been presented jointly by New Zealand and the United States. At its best, the proposal is a step in the right direction but there is a long way to go before the Ross Sea gets the protection it deserves.
While the plan protects a large area of the Ross Sea it still allows commercial fishing for Antarctic toothfish. This is one of the main issues covered in my documentary. The fishery plans to reduce adult toothfish by 50 per cent and will destroy the natural balance of this unique ecosystem.
Many believe there should be no commercial fishing in the Ross Sea. It’s important the decision makers at Bremerhaven are fully aware of this view and that they are under the scrutiny of a public which understands the issues and what is at stake. Watching the film is a great way to ensure that. It presents powerful and compelling arguments for protection of the Ross Sea.
I’ve been touring The Last Ocean in the United States where they’ve been sell-out screenings across the country. As well as attending Q&A’s I have been engaging with wholesalers, following in the footsteps of a dedicated team from Greenpeace US who have convinced many of the major US retailers to no longer sell Antarctic toothfish (also known as Chilean sea bass in the US) from the Ross Sea.
A representative from Wholefoods saw The Last Ocean in New York and a few days later the company issued a statement clarifying its position saying “… we do not currently, nor do we plan to in the future, source Chilean sea bass from the controversial Ross Sea area near Antarctica”.
Wholefoods join other super major retailers, Safeway, Wegmnas, and Harris Teeter which have all pledged that they will not source seafood from the Ross Sea. This shows the power of a wider public campaign and how it can create change.
When the 25 nations start horse-trading the finer details of marine protection they will need reminding of the importance of the Ross Sea in global terms and that nothing – let alone a controversial fishery - justifies destroying the natural balance of Earth’s last intact ocean ecosystem. I urge you to watch The Last Ocean, share it with your friends and let them know about next month’s 25-nation meeting. Public pressure can be a powerful thing.
Peter Young is one of the country’s leading nature cameramen and a key figure in the international movement to protect the Ross Sea.
Images: Weddell seal in the Ross Sea. Copyright John Weller.
The Rhode Island audience at a screening of The Last Ocean in the US. Copyright Jonny Clancy