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Empty Oceans, Empty Nets

Examines the global marine fisheries crisis and the efforts to implement sustainable fishing practices.

A printer-friendly version of this page 55 minutes
Directed by Steve Cowan
Produced by Steve Cowan & Barry Schienberg for Habitat Media
Animation by Eric Smith
Music by Paul Bedford
Narrated by Peter Coyote

"I highly recommend this video to all public, school and college libraries as it is the best, most informative and well balanced fisheries video I have seen." Barb Butler, Oregon Institute of Marine Biology
"Many of the new changes that are happening in the oceans are a consequence of activities that people have always been engaged in. It's just a much greater rate and a faster scale. Nobody created these problems deliberately." - Dr. Jane Lubchenco, National Academy of Sciences

"Never before has a wake-up call from nature been so clear, never again will there be better opportunities to protect what remains of the ocean's living wealth." - Dr. Sylvia Earle, former Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Our oceans are not yet empty but the signs are not good. The seas have always been humanity's single largest source of protein, but for the first time in history this critical food supply is at risk in many areas. Despite an ever-intensifying fishing effort, the global catch appears to have reached its limit while the demand for seafood continues to grow.

According to the FAO, 15 of the world's 17 major ocean fisheries are already depleted or over-exploited. These trends are even more troubling when population growth is considered. The world population - now at six billion - will continue to grow by over 60 million people per year, with nearly half this growth in areas within 100 kilometers of a coastline. Over one billion people in Asia already depend on ocean fish for their entire supply of protein, as does 1 out of every 5 Africans. Although North America and Europe rely less on ocean-caught protein, much of the seafood consumed on both continents is imported from developing countries. The entire world shares an interest in restoring and maintaining this critical food supply.

EMPTY OCEANS, EMPTY NETS examines the full extent of the global fisheries crisis and the forces that continue to push many marine fish stocks toward commercial extinction. The program also documents some of the most promising and innovative work being done to restore fisheries and protect essential fish habitat. New market initiatives are examined that give consumers a powerful vote in deciding how our oceans are fished. Commentary is provided by fishermen and by many of the world's most respected marine and fisheries scientists.

Grade Level: 9-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2003     Copyright Date: 2002
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-442-7     VHS ISBN: 1-56029-977-0

"If you knew nothing about fishing, this would be an awesome introduction. From Indonesian out-rigger canoes to Bering Sea factory trawlers, from cyanided reefs and dynamited fish in the western Pacific to tuna weirs in the Mediterranean, it's all here."
National Fisherman

"Empty Oceans is a stunning and substantive new documentary on the horrific impacts of current destructive fishing practices around the globe. The film takes its viewers on a journey that unravels the mysteries of declining fish populations around the globe. Hopefully, seeing this film will convince you that it's time for us all to take action to protect the world's oceans."
Ted Danson, President and Founder, American Oceans Campaign

"Empty Oceans, Empty Nets examines the disturbing decline of marine fisheries around the world...The good news is that fish populations can be restored and sustained through careful regulation of fishing. Consumers can also become more aware of which kinds of fish are best to buy, shunning those listed as commercially endangered."
Los Angeles Times

"54 minutes of film that will...(help you) reorder your priorities and your entrees."
San Francisco Chronicle

"Tells a cautionary tale about the overfishing of the world's oceans, but it also gives us hope for the future as well...the viewer is left with the realization that we can help."
Tri-Valley (CA) Herald

"There are many things concerned individuals can do. I'd start by watching Empty Oceans, Empty Nets, a gripping new documentary about the state of the world's fisheries...As the saying goes, save a fish, save a fisherman. And if we save the oceans, we save ourselves."
The Providence Journal

"Empty Oceans, Empty Nets delivers a thorough summary of the global marine fisheries crisis and makes excellent use of ship-board videos, interviews and graphics... By the end of the film viewers will understand the problems of by-catch, juvenile (pre-reproductive) fish harvest, habitat destruction and problems posed by the increased mechanization of the fishing process.... The footage of sea-floor disturbance caused by bottom trawls is dramatic and something not commonly seen in other fisheries related videos. Empty Oceans, Empty Nets shows some thought provoking footage of fish farming operations and does a wonderful job of explaining the pros and cons of intensive fish culture. The film is certainly a wake-up call...I highly recommend this video to all public, school and college libraries as it is the best, most informative and well balanced fisheries video I have seen."
Educational Media Reviews Online, Barb Butler, Oregon Institute of Marine Biology

"Water, water everywhere and nary a fish in the drink. A scandalizing exposé of the rampant destruction visited on global fisheries by sophisticated maritime technologies and free market 'logic.' "
Prof. Timothy McGettigan, PhD, Department of Sociology, Colorado State University-Pueblo

"The stunning visuals of fish in the oceans and the sometimes horrifying footage of catching those same fish, together with the factual information make this video a must have for all library environment collections."
School Library Journal

"Empty Oceans, Empty Nets is a video that challenges viewers to rethink the impact that their choice of fish for dinner has on the environment...presents beautiful scenes of the ocean habitat as it documents modern-day fishing practices...Empty Oceans, Empty Nets is appropriate for high school and college students. The video could easily be used in the classroom to increase general awareness of the global issues involving the fishing industry and its impact on science and society...This video highlights how informed consumers and citizens can make a difference in restoring and maintaining this critical food supply. Recommended."
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Habitat Media's web site
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Awards and Festivals
CINE Golden Eagle
Best Public Affairs Documentary, Ekotopfilm, Bratislava
Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film & Video Festival
Honorable Mention, EarthVision Environmental Film Festival
Vermont International Film Festival
United Nations Association Film Festival, Stanford
MountainFilm, Telluride
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival
Siskiyou Environmental Film Festival

African Studies
Business Practices
Food And Nutrition
Global Issues
Life Science
Marine Biology
Natural Resources
Oceans and Coasts
Pacific Studies

Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainable Development

Related Titles

Empty Oceans, Empty Nets (Short Version)
Examines the global marine fisheries crisis and the efforts to implement sustainable fishing practices.

The End of the Line
The first major feature documentary film revealing the impact of overfishing on our oceans. Based on the book by Charles Clover.

Bluefin tuna is a thousand-pound warm-blooded giant with gills, which wholesales at up to a million dollars, and which is caught in an oceanic "last of the buffalo hunt."

A Sea Change
Ocean acidification threatens over one million species with extinction--and with them, our entire way of life.

Farming The Seas
The perils and promise of fish farms in a world running out of ocean fish stocks.

Net Loss
Examines the controversy surrounding salmon farms, and the threat they pose to wild salmon.

Ancient Sea Turtles Stranded in a Modern World
The use of TEDs in shrimpers' nets would allow sea turtles to escape.

Black Sea
Scientists and religious leaders meet to find the solution to the Black Sea in crisis.

Keepers of the Coast
Surfers organize to save the ocean and the coastline.

Weather The Storm
Fishing communities on France's western coast show the path to sustainability.

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