A documentary on the Atlantic fishing industry has drawn a strong reaction after it was aired on Irish state television this week.
A compelling and disturbing account of three coastal communities in Ireland, Newfoundland and Norway and their struggle to cope with oil exploration and industrial fishing in their waters, the content of ‘Atlantic’ has finally drawn attention to a slow-burning environmental and economic crisis.
Made by Risteard O Domhnaill, who also made the important documentary ‘The Pipe’ in relation to the offshore Shell gas refinery in Mayo, the new film details attacks on the oceans’s natural resources throughout its northern stretches. Supporters of the EU have also been rethinking their position as the film describes the bureaucrats’ casual erosion of Irish fishermen’s livelihoods over the past 40 years.
Opening up of the territorial waters to foreign vessels has been followed by painful restrictions on Irish drift netting for salmon.
As the oil majors drive deeper into their fragile seas, and the world’s largest fishing companies push fish stocks to the brink, coastal communities and the resources they rely on are fast approaching a point of no return. This has huge implications for Irish fishing communities and the national exchequer and is even more relevant with news of Brexit and the British plan to leavie the Common Fisheries Area in 2017.
Atlantic also brings to the fore three very intimate stories from the global resource debate. In Canada, Newfoundlanders talk us through similar outrages dating back to the early 1990s. Both communities have seen fishing villages decay into ghost towns. The film moves on Norway where brother fisherman campaign against disruptive seismic testing by oil explorers. All have similar stories to tell.
Narrated by Emmy award winner Brendan Gleeson, beautiful cinematography forms a background to grim stories, such as the subject of the super-trawlers - seafaring factories that hovering up unimaginable numbers of fish.
The second largest super trawler in the world is currently fishing off the Irish coast. Called MFV Margiris and it drags a net bigger than a football field and can process over 250 tonnes of fish a day. Conversationists and fishermen say huge damage is being done to our fish stocks and sea life, including dolphins.
Michael Creed, the Minister responsible for the Marine and Fisheries has evaded his responsibilities by blaming EU Fisheries policy. Campaign groups such as Uplift are now calling for permanent inspectors on board super trawlers in Irish waters.
“My last documentary, The Pipe, told the story of a small coastal community in Mayo as they faced down one of the world’s most powerful oil companies, which was forcing a high-pressure raw gas pipeline through their farms and fishing grounds,” Mr O Domhnaill said.
“The story raised more questions for me than it answered, leading me to look at the politics of our oil and gas prospects off the Irish coast. What has since unfolded is an incredible story of resource mismanagement, and the capture of our offshore riches -- oil, gas and fishing -- whilst our gaze is elsewhere.
“Unfortunately, what I found when I looked across the Atlantic is that Ireland’s tale is not unique. However, in both Norway and Newfoundland, the lessons learned by similarly affected communities can help us to chart a different course, before our most renewable resources are damaged beyond recognition, or sold to the highest bidders.”
A viewing recently was organised by Sinn Fein in Leinster House and in the European Parliament. More information or to request a screening visit www.theatlanticstream.com.