“Losing Nemo” Video Takes Aim at Overfishing–But Does it Go Too Far?

The above video is a highly produced animation that takes a shot across the bow of large fishing vessels. Capitalizing on the public’s affinity for a cuddly clownfish named Nemo from the 2003 Pixar/Disney film Finding Nemo, this six-minute clip of digital agitprop supports the advocacy group The Black Fish.

The Black Fish targets the widespread problem of overfishing with grassroots campaigns, and has been particularly active in the Mediterranean recently. About the above video, the group said:

A group of 32 international animators affiliated with animation studio Mr Lee have worked – entirely voluntary for 5 months – on an ambitious animation film project for The Black Fish, bringing attention to the problems of overfishing and the need for action to turn the tide for conservation.

The artists themselves said they “worked on it in between projects that pay the rent.” They added: “It is our message to the world that we are serious about applying our art to contribute to a better world šŸ˜‰ ”

Some of the claims presented in the clip:

-Fishermen catch 2 trillion individual animals a year, while 40 percent of that is unwanted “bycatch”

-Since the 1950s, 90 percent of all large fish have disappeared from the oceans thanks largely to overfishing

-Environmental groups have long been working to make fishing sustainable, but faces opposition from a powerful fishing lobby

-“We simply can’t negotiate with biology” when it comes to fishing policy

-If current trends continue, overexploited fish will be totally gone by 2048

Clearly, “Losing Nemo” has a bone to pick with overfishing, and the video tries to tug at the heart strings by showing a threatening captain of a big factory fishing boat, plowing through dark and stormy waters. A scene that links a fish (Nemo?) caught in a giant net to a dinner table is clearly meant to make people think about the impacts of their own daily choices (maybe check out National Geographic’s Seafood Decision Guide for some ideas).

I do wonder if the video’s tone might be a little too harsh in depicting the fishing industry as a black-hat enemy. As we’ve covered at National Geographic, there is also a growing segment of the industry that is embracing new innovations in sustainability, along with new business models. There are certainly illegal “pirate fishers” who break the law, although most individual fishermen I’ve talked to seem like good people who are just trying to make a living while being out on the water. It’s already a very tough, and very dangerous, business.

Still, there’s no doubt that overfishing remains a big problem in many parts of the world, especially considering the compound effects of other threats to ocean life. But fishermen are going to have to be part of the solution. Does “Losing Nemo” help educate and engage the public to contribute to that process, or harden fishermen against sustainability further?

It’s an age-old question when it comes to green campaigns, and I’m not sure if there is one answer. What do you think?

Related: Help name this mystery fish, and win a National Geographic Expeditions trip to the Galapagos.