Life force in trou­ble

The ocean is not as re­silient as we think, a timely film tells us

Life & Style Weekend - - SCREEN LIFE - SCREEN LIFE with Seanna Cronin

THE ocean may seem deep and vast – even lim­it­less – but it’s not im­mune from our in­flu­ence. A new doc­u­men­tary aims to raise aware­ness about the dire state of af­fairs just off our shores be­fore it’s too late. Blue is the Aus­tralian equiv­a­lent of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, high­light­ing the im­mense changes and de­cline in health of the world’s ocean ecosys­tems. Film­maker Karina Holden and her pas­sion­ate ocean guardians ar­gue that now is a crit­i­cal time for the con­ser­va­tion of a rapidly de­clin­ing re­source. Stud­ies show half of all ma­rine life has been lost in the past 40 years, and re­searchers project that at cur­rent rates of pol­lu­tion there will be more plas­tic in the ocean than fish by 2050. Ma­rine bi­ol­o­gist Lu­cas Han­d­ley is one of the faces of Blue, cov­er­ing is­sues like fish­eries man­age­ment, coral bleach­ing and key­stone species pro­tec­tion. “I give a gen­eral per­spec­tive of the ocean as a free­d­iver and ma­rine sci­en­tist, hav­ing spent my life ex­plor­ing the most re­mote places in the world I can get to,” he tells Week­end. Grow­ing up in Byron Bay, Lu­cas fell in love with the ocean and learned how to ex­plore it for min­utes at a time on just one breath of air. “One of the great­est things about Byron was that we were pushed to have an open mind about dif­fer­ent things,” he says. “When I grew up there it wasn’t a ma­rine park (at Cape Byron) and we were able to fish there. When the ma­rine park came in there was a lot of re­sis­tance to change, but as those things changed peo­ple re­alised that there were many ben­e­fits to hav­ing a ma­rine park. The great­est thing that came out of the park was not nec­es­sar­ily the blan­ket con­ser­va­tion in terms of num­bers of fish; it was the men­tal­ity shift... now we’re see­ing peo­ple take pride in their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.” From surf­ing the waves of Bells Beach to hand-feed­ing wild sharks over an ac­tive un­der­wa­ter vol­cano, es­cap­ing whirlpools in the Malacca Strait and hunt­ing with his in­dige­nous friends to free div­ing deep sea pin­na­cles in the An­daman Sea, Lu­cas spends as much time un­der­wa­ter as on land. “I’ve spent a long time liv­ing with an in­dige­nous com­mu­nity in the Solomon Is­lands, where we need to hunt our food ev­ery day,” he says. “I don’t want to be one of those peo­ple who says we have to lock ev­ery­thing up to con­serve it.” He be­lieves the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion has been given a false sense of the seem­ingly lim­it­less pro­duc­tiv­ity of the oceans thanks to doc­u­men­taries, tourism cam­paigns and travel sto­ries. “Even though we see these images of in­cred­i­ble abun­dance, it’s not nec­es­sar­ily like that,” he says. “When peo­ple see beau­ti­ful images of huge schools of fish they think ‘Wow, they must be ev­ery­where’ but the sci­ence is show­ing it’s a false per­cep­tion of abun­dance.” But it’s not all doom and gloom. Blue pro­poses a range of small- and large-scale changes that can help ma­rine ecosys­tems re­cover. Lu­cas be­lieves Blue should ap­peal to a wide range of view­ers and hopes it’s not dis­missed as a “gree­nie’’ film. “One of the im­por­tant things here is we’re not push­ing an ex­treme, change your en­tire life to save the planet agenda,” he says. “We’re say­ing there are all these is­sues and you can do your own small thing, from the way you eat to what you choose to con­sume and the throw­away plas­tics you’re us­ing. “It doesn’t mean you have to go quit your job and be­come an ac­tivist. What the film hopes to do is em­power peo­ple to make one small change in their life.” Blue screens in se­lect cin­e­mas from Thurs­day.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

South­ern right whales in a scene from the movie Blue.

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