Sylvia Earle’s Life and Mission on Screen in “Mission Blue”

In 2009, “The Cove” awakened viewers to the grisly violence of the annual Taiji dolphin hunt in Japan. Audiences around the world cringed and expressed outrage at the maritime hunting practices of people in one part of one nation.

Now that film’s producer, Fisher Stevens, is back, taking the director’s chair along with Robert Nixon (director of “Gorillas in the Mist”), and his scope has widened considerably. “Mission Blue” (available August 15 through Netflix)¬†aims to open our eyes to the startling impact that we all have on life in the ocean.

The film follows National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Sylvia Earle from her early days as a record-setting diver and oceanographer, to her current ceaseless campaign to make everyone aware of the dangers facing the ocean and to inspire them to act to protect it.

Overfishing; pollution; acidification from climate change: these are the unpleasant realities of today’s ocean, a far cry from the teeming waters into which Sylvia first dove.

Co-Director  Fisher Stevens photographs a school of fish in Cabo Pulmo, Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Bryce Groark and Hope Spots Company Inc.)
Co-Director Fisher Stevens photographs a school of fish in Cabo Pulmo, Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Bryce Groark and Hope Spots Company Inc.)

“60 years ago, when I began exploring the ocean, no one imagined that we could do anything to harm it,” Sylvia says. “Mission Blue” makes it clear just how wrong we were.

Students and teachers can also dive much deeper through lesson plans and research materials from National Geographic Education.

The film, like Sylvia Earle’s message every day, pulls no punches when it comes to unveiling the detriments humans have brought to the ocean. But also like her, it leaves the viewer with a renewed sense of awe at the power of life in the ocean to recover. Through major alterations to our current practices, and an ever growing network of marine protected areas around the world, Sylvia Earle believes we can still save the ocean from collapse.

But whether it will happen is a bigger cliffhanger than even Hollywood can leave you with.

Learn More

Sylvia Earle Bio

Mission Blue on National Geographic Education

“Mission Blue” on Netflix

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.