EYE TO EYE

John Hop­kins film, ‘Bluefin’, will be screened at the Florence Sim­mons Per­for­mance Hall tonight

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY SALLY COLE sally.cole@The­Guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/Sal­lyForth57

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.”

SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN

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.

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