“Misson Blue,” a new documentary released by Netflix, follows the 78-year-old Earle and her life as one of the country’s leading oceanographers, from her fierce defense of the sea to her charge to protect everything that lives within it. The project has been in the works for more than three years after directors Robert Nixon and Fisher Stevens set out to create a film inspired by Earle’s 2009 TED Talk, in which she asked the world to help protect the “blue heart” of the planet.
More than 12 percent of all the terrestrial land on Earth is currently protected, butless than 1 percent of the oceans are afforded the same safeguards as they remain under siege from threats ranging from rising seas and acidification, to overfishingand increased temperatures. Earle told The Huffington Post she hopes the film, and her ongoing conservation efforts, will help open the public’s eyes and re-establish a respect for scientific fact — and sooner rather than later, as it “takes a lot to even make the slightest impact, the slightest ripple in the way people think.”
“I think that those who are willing to do what children do, they ask questions and they look at the evidence, and they learn,” she said. “Somewhere along the way, some people kind of lose that willingness to trust their own eyes and trust the evidence.”
“We are ravaging and destroying the integrity of the ocean.”
Earle is quick to point out some of the horrifying facts that lurk beneath the waves: More than 50 percent of coral reefs have vanished. Shark populations have been decimated. And less than 8 percent of southern bluefin tuna, over-fished since the 1950s, remain.
Earle says the world’s current catch rates are unsustainable, and with vastly improved technology, including deep-sea sonar and nets that can corral entire schools of fish, no bluefin can escape.
“We have the capacity to kill every one,” Earle told HuffPost. “We are ravaging and destroying the integrity of the ocean with this luxury taste for wildlife. I don’t know what we’re thinking. We aren’t thinking. You go to a restaurant and you don’t see eagles and owls and snow leopards and elephant and rhinoceros on the menu.”
“Mission Blue” predominantly features this aspect of our seafood addiction, and Earle says most of the fish we extract from the sea aren’t used to provide necessary dietary requirements — they’re a luxury item that fetches a high price. But the seemingly endless seas are running on empty.
“We are the beneficiaries of hundreds of millions of years of fine tuning, and it’s taken us a few decades to unravel some of these systems,” she said. “Now the fish just don’t have a chance.”
“We can contemplate a better place and we can get there. Now.”
Despite the doom and gloom, the documentary and its undersea shots are a visual masterpiece, and Earle still retains an unwavering sense of hope that all is not lost. She points to recent efforts by island nations like Palau and Kiribati, which soon will ban all commercial fishing in their exclusive economic zones in an attempt to protect their “blue assets.” Even President Barack Obama has announced plans to create the world’s largest marine sanctuary later this year.
These are all reflections of Earle’s TED Talk wish to create protected “Hope Spots” throughout the ocean, where commercial fishing will end and these blue assets can have time to recover.
“The future we want should not be continuing business as usual that is leading us on a steady downhill pathway to a world that is really frightening to contemplate,” she told HuffPost. “But the wonderful thing is we can contemplate a better place and we can get there. Now.”