In 2006, an international study predicted the world's salt-water fish extinction by the year 2048, and was pooh-poohed by the public as alarmist. Three years later, the alarm takes the form of a documentary film on the disturbing effects of overfishing, based on the book of the same name by Charles Clover.
It's substance over style for the filmmakers of The End of the Line. Ignore the orchestral bravado to montages of undersea footage. More than one-third of the fish we eat are in a "collapse" state — species on their way to extinction — and many of them are caught illegally, under international regulations. The film opens with the unsettling example of cod in Newfoundland. Once seen as an endless supply, in an area first settled for the fishing, the cod population had dwindled so low that in 1992 a ban was placed on catching it. The Newfoundland cod moratorium sets the film's grim tone. Following Clover, an investigative researcher turned overfishing activist, The End of the Line charts the rapid decline of bluefin tuna, the wasteful practice of "trawling" (scooping up fish from the seabed along with turtles, dolphins and sharks in the way) and unforeseen repercussions of depleting certain species (ray populations are booming due to fewer natural predators). Jellyfish burgers? One scientist wanly suggests.
Yet the film offers slices of hope. Instead of farming seafood, which requires feeding many more tons of smaller fish like sardines per yield of farmed salmon, for instance, why not just eat the sardines? They're healthy, and plentiful, the film suggests. Instead, the Mitsubishi Corporation is rumored to be freezing large stocks of bluefin tuna, so that once they're gone, they can sell them exclusively. A series of consumer tips and resources fade in and out as the film's finale — though many viewers may be in a state of shock by then.