EYE TO EYE
John Hopkins film, ‘Bluefin’, will be screened at the Florence Simmons Performance Hall tonight
John Hopkins’ film, ‘Bluefin’, will be screened at the Florence Simmons Performance Hall tonight
John Hopkins remembers when he had no respect for tuna.
That’s because, like many people, he wasn’t aware of the ecological issues surrounding ocean fishing.
“I thought tuna was something that came in a can and when mixed with mayonnaise became a sandwich,” says the award-winning P.E.I. filmmaker.
In fact, tuna fish sandwiches were something he “looked forward” to whenever he returned home from school to watch “The Flintstones” on TV.
“I was wired to think of tuna as food. I never thought of them as a wildlife creature, the same way you would think of elephant, an orangutan, a whale or a dolphin,” said Hopkins during a telephone interview.
However, close encounters with these fish while filming “Bluefin” in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have changed his attitude.
“When you get them alongside the boat, they have such large eyes you can actually see them looking at you. And, as Jack MacNeill says in the film, ‘you can sense the fear in them.’ So it was difficult to keep on looking at these fish… without having empathy for the species,” says Hopkins, whose award-winning film will be screened today at the Florence Simmons Performance Hall, 9 p.m., as part of the Prince Edward Island Film, Food & Ideas Fest (P.E.I. Fest).
Filmed in North Lake and Japan, “Bluefin” is a 53-minute NFB film that explores the baffling
mystery of why the normally wary bluefin no longer fear people. Hopkins documents this phenomenon with beautiful cinematography and brings the issues quickly into focus.
“Whales and sea birds off P.E.I. seem to be starving. Tuna fishermen are hand-feeding herring to normally very wary tuna, yet there are no thoughts given that this might have something do with both the inshore and offshore fleets in the Gulf exhausting large quantities of spawning herring for lobster bait and sushi,” he says.
“Bluefin” also explores scientists’ notion that the species is on the brink of collapse.
“It’s a perplexing situation and my film documents a potentially epic tragedy in the making for both the tuna and fishermen.”
In addition, it takes a plunge into the industry surrounding its namesake fish and a hard look at both the recreational catch-and-release fishery and the commercial fishery.
And it’s concerning, says Hopkins
“Tuna is probably the last, large, significant creature that doesn’t still doesn’t have the recognition of something that needs to be adopted.”
To further explore this issue, there’s a question and answer session following tonight’s screening.
The diverse panel includes Captain Jeff MacNeill of MacNeill’s Tuna and Deep Sea Fishing Charters, Gary Melvin, research scientist, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Carl Saifina, an award-winning ocean ecologist/author, who will be skyped in.
“I wanted to make a film that would show all sides. And I knew if I did, people would listen.”
Director John Hopkins, left, meets with Colin Stanfield and Becka Viau, members of the P.E.I. Fest team, prior to the screening of his film, “Bluefin”, today at 9 p.m. in the Florence Simmons Performance Hall.