The Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) is back with a new film called Racing Extinction, a documentary which sets out to expose the undercover world of endangered species and the race to protect them against mass extinction.
The Oceanic Preservation Society brought us the undercover documentary The Cove which exposed the killing of dolphin in Taiji Japan, and Racing Extinction has a similar never-before seen take on the hidden world trade in endangered species. Their newest film is directed by Academy Award winning director Louie Psihoyos and aired December 2nd on the Discovery Channel. Since then it has been viewed all around the world and even projected on the side of the St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
It is no question we as humans have had a negative impact on the planet and according to Racing Extinction, scientist predicts that our ecological footprint may cause up to a 50% loss in species by the end of the century.
The documentary looks at the two major threats to endangered wild species across planet earth. The first threat being the international trade in wildlife, and the traditional medical cures and tonics which are marketed at the expense of the animals. The second is the hidden world of carbon emissions and the resulting ocean acidification.
Racing Extinction focuses on the global decline in animal populations, especially charismatic marine megafauna species like manta rays and whale sharks. There are some particularly eye opening scenes of huge factory style shark fin operations with hundreds if not thousands of shark fins drying in the sun, including the sale of whale shark fins and concentrated shark oils. Most of these scenes are filmed using hidden cameras while businessmen boast about the value and purity of their products.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, although hundreds of thousands of sharks are still being killed everyday for their fins and shark finning is still a major threat to shark populations, WildAID a US-based organization focused on reducing demand for wildlife products, estimates that the sales of shark fins for shark fin soup have fallen 50-70% in 2014.
WildAID is also features in Racing Extinction as they dive deeper into the trade of endangered species and follows the trail of manta Rays and the use of their gill rakers in traditional medicine. Footage of Indonesian fishermen hauling Mantas into their fishing boats are hard to watch, but for the fishermen it is not only an income it is a way of life and a source of pride and traditional identity. However even the manta fishermen in the film know the populations are declining and worry about what their children will have left.
Racing Extinction is an inspiring documentary from the get go, and even more inspiring if you have the opportunity to see the plight of these animal on the big screen. We appreciate that this film is not just another nature documentary, and that instead of just reporting on these event, they are working to transform Indonesia’s Manta fisheries and making a difference where it counts.
A particularly heart warming story comes when footage of the ocean, sharks and graceful manta rays are being projected on a giant inflatable screen in the same Indonesian village now famous for the manta hunt. You can see the sparkle in the children’s eyes, and one can only imagine how amazed they must be by these images right in their own village.
Building of this event in April 2014, NGO’s with the supports of the Indonesian Ministry of Affairs and Fisheries continue to work in the village to slowly make a difference and provide training and alternative livelihood solutions. We can’t help but look at our own hobby and wonder how coral farming could have a lasting positive impact in villages like this around the world.
We asked ourselves, will corals be around long enough to have such an impact, and which corals will be the first to go extinct? As Racing Extinction puts it, the second threat to endangered species is the hidden world of carbon emissions and the resulting ocean acidification. As we know this spells bad news for corals, as the pH drops in the ocean (or our tanks) and the water becomes more acidic, it becomes harder and harder for corals to build their calcium carbonate skeletons.
This has an impact not only on corals, but also the bottom of the trophic pyramid, affecting plankton species which form hard calcium shells. A more acidic ocean eats away at their thin shells and making it harder for them to grow. Let’s hope corals can adapt, as scientist are already studying more hardy strains of coral which can withstand the conditions of a changing ocean environment.
So it’s not all bad news, and Racing Extinction does an fantastic job at communicating the impacts we are having on our planet as well as inspiring us to embrace solutions. We come across new examples everyday of people making a difference where they live or play and want to thank the filmmakers for their exquisite work and all those of you doing your part to make the world a better place.