Rupert Murray, UK, 2009, 86 mins, documentary
Review by Matthew Rodgers
You might be thinking “So what if we run out of fish?”. Less stink and maybe the credit crunch will hit Captain Birdseye and his crew of underage workers a bit harder. Well this enlightening little piece of cod-philosophy (not really applicable, but worth using for the cheap gag) documentary filmmaking, based on Charles Clover's best selling book, will go some way to convincing your otherwise.
The End of the Line presents the devastating effects that our global passion for fish is having on the present ecology - imbalance of the jellyfish population and unrelenting consumerism - and that of the future of our blue planet. Realistically, if the current trend continues we will see the end of most sustainable seafood by 2048. Scary stuff.
It starts well enough, treading the same waters as a David Attenborough master class with an effective score and attention grabbing narration establishing a serious tone to proceedings. And then after five minutes the focus slips through the net and becomes a series of facts reduced to the “Newsround” level of lazy reporting.
Quotes such as “man has been hunting fish in the sea since he knew they were there” rank alongside “where bears do their business”, and the truly awful manipulative editing that features footage of obese consumers stuffing their faces with our scaly friends, interjected with clips of freshly caught fish SQUEALING - Yes, actually SQUEALING - threatens to undermine the serious message, because as a fisherman of 30 years this reviewer has never heard a fish squeal.
Thank Poseidon then that the filmmakers eventually start to present us with some actual facts, courtesy of a range of talking head oceanic specialists, hitting us with some startling revelations on the demise of the Blue Fin Tuna. The End of the Line begins to find a core to what up until now had been shock-tactic journalism.
Nobody escapes blame in contributing to the astonishing plight of this beautiful fish. Presenter Clover, refreshingly keeping much of his influence off-camera in a way that Michael Moore would struggle to do, depicts problems close to home by attacking the menus of top London eateries such as NOBU, who refuse to remove the fish from their menu, let alone label it as an endangered species. And he also highlights the global impact with the continued ineptitude of the EU in managing the fishing quotas. Blue Fin Tuna are continually overfished despite the lacklustre imposition of such limits. Even Jamie Oliver gets a ticking off for dribbling over the prospect of cooking up an endangered steak.
It's not all doom and gloom though. The Alaskans' fishing methods provide a template that the rest of the world should, but undoubtedly will not follow, and the entire mission statement of the film is one of “it's never too late” to turn things round. And after some initially ham-fisted presentation the same could be said about this educational documentary.