It is a huge honor to share with you our feature on Sea of Life documentary, a film debut by Julia Barnes. Her documentary has won prestiges awards from International Film Festivals including: Winner Award of Merit Impact Doc Awards, Winner of Emerging Filmmakers Ontario 150 Film Challenge Water Docs, and the Cayman Islands very own Cayfilm. Filmmaker Julia Barnes spent over 3 years and visited seven countries to film her documentary. The driving force that inspired Julia Barnes to make this documentary was from watching Rob Stewart’s documentary Revolution. At 16 years old, Julia’s journey of filming her first documentary began and is a true inspiration. Her bravery and tenacity is admirable. She is a hero for committing to her passion for conservation, raising awareness about environmental issues and sharing what she learned through her documentary. At the heart of her film, Sea of Life “dives into some of the most spectacular ecosystems on the planet, exposing both the destruction that’s happening in the ocean and the efforts underway to stop it,” says Julia Barnes. Sea of Life is powerful and moving documentary that implores us to think of what our planet would look like if it was once again teeming with life under the sea.
“The diversity of species in the Galapagos ranges from marine iguanas to schooling hammerheads. The sea turtles are massive and numerous, and, although illegal fishing still occurs, the Galapagos is a lot more protected than most parts of the ocean. There’s an abundance of life in the water. That kind of abundance should be everywhere in the ocean, but most places are decimated because industrial fishing has wiped out 90% of the fish. The good news is that life can bounce back if we give it a chance.” -Julia Barnes
Sea of Life reminds us though we have caused tremendous loss of species, coral reefs and fragile ecosystems, we have the power to turn it around. It is an inspiring film offering hope and encourages us to unite in an effort to preserve our coral reefs and endangered species on a global scale. We can all contribute in some capacity and have a role in creating a sustainable future for generations to come. We have a chance to save endangered marine life and fragile ecosystems from extinction. We have the power to use our voice and act now to make a difference and work towards restoring what has been lost or ruined. The documentary features legendary environmentalists including, the late Rob Stewart, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Dr. Charlie Veron, Madison Stewart, Fabien Cousteau, and Louie Psihoyus.
Many of the issues our oceans are facing are easily swept away into a state of out of sight, out of mind. A disconnect can occur, for those who do not spend time exploring our oceans through diving or snorkelling. People protect what they love. That being said, seeing what we love on a regular basis allows us the opportunity to maintain a strong connection to what we cherish as well as noticing changes. Especially, with regard to the ocean, coral reefs and marine life. The sea is booming with a spectacularly biodiverse underwater world. Some people have yet to experience all of the treasures of the ocean. The documentary A Sea of Life seeks to show the beautiful underwater world that is in crisis. To bring to the forefront, the issues our oceans are facing at this moment in time, encouraging us all to contribute in some way, to the betterment of our oceans and environment. Some of the most prevalent environmental issues our oceans are facing now are addressed in the Sea of Life documentary, including: ocean acidification, loss of coral reefs, long line fishing, drift nets and over fishing. Through watching this incredible documentary, a connection can be built to bring awareness to those who do not frequently spend time in the ocean, or those who are not aware of the magnitude of the issues our oceans are battling right now. Through seeing the range of the vastness of our oceans, the fragile ecosystems, habitats, coral reefs and the abundance of life that call the ocean their home we can begin to understand the invaluable role the ocean plays in maintaining life under the sea—as well as our own survival. Every second breathe we take comes from the ocean. We need healthy oceans to maintain balance in nature but also to uphold one of our greatest life-support systems. The ocean is the very heart of our blue planet. In the wise words of Dr. Sylvia Earle, “No blue, no green.” We need the ocean to flourish with life. We need to increase marine protected areas and protection of endangered species to allow for the recovery of fragile ecosystems and declining populations. We need to restore the balance of the ecosystems back to what it once was, thriving with healthy reefs and an abundance of marine life.
Our Interview with filmmaker Julia Barnes
1. What inspired you to make this documentary?
I’ve always had a love of nature but it wasn’t until I watched Rob Stewart’s documentary Revolution that I realized how much trouble the natural world is in. After learning that the world’s coral reefs, rain forests and fish are expected to be wiped out by the middle of the century, I wanted to do everything I could to turn things around.
Film was the most powerful weapon I could imagine. So, about a week after watching Revolution, I picked up a camera, enrolled in a scuba diving course and set out to make this movie. I had no idea at the time that it would end up turning into a 3-year adventure and taking me to 7 different countries.
2. What key message from the documentary would you like to share?
Everything we love and everything we depend on is in jeopardy. Humans are bringing on a mass extinction with the potential to wipe out most life on the planet. This is a massive, urgent problem and we have the opportunity to turn things around, but we have to do something fast. I think it’s going to take passionate people dedicating their lives to this and forcing the kind of change we want to see. Individuals have an enormous amount of power. So, the big message is do something – be a hero, fight for what you love – because no matter what you love, it’s in jeopardy.
3. What was the biggest lesson you learned making this film?
I learned about strategy and power – that if we’re going to get things right we need to tackle the underlying systems that reward and facilitate the destruction of the planet. So much of environmentalism has been focused on person lifestyle changes, causing us to look inwards and blame ourselves while forgetting that there are entire systems set up which direct billions of dollars in subsidies towards industries that are destroying the planet. Fisheries for example are subsidized to the tune of 35 billion dollars a year. We could work one by one to convince individuals to stop eating fish, but we would have a much larger impact if we focused our time and efforts on stopping the subsidies that are going towards fisheries. On a larger scale, if we’re going to get things right we need to deal with the economy and civilization. Within a system based on infinite growth, even the most conscious consumer choices won’t stop the destruction. I think understanding this is exciting because we know there are areas where we can direct our efforts to have a bigger impact. When timelines are so urgent it’s important to be as strategic as possible in our approach.
4. How has the journey making an environmental documentary changed you or the way you see the world?
It’s opened my eyes to so much. Every time I interviewed a new expert I learned something shocking that I hadn’t known before. The process of making the movie was kind of like putting together a massive jigsaw puzzle, except you had to search for the pieces. It took 3 years, 7 countries and over 50 interviews to create Sea of Life. In the process I got to meet some incredible people who are doing great things for the ocean.
Every time I screen Sea of Life the reaction from audiences is amazing. People care and they want to help. I’ve had people tell me their lives have changed after watching the movie – that they’re going to focus their efforts on tackling these issues. That’s inspiring. I’m more motivated than ever to keep doing everything I can to change the world. Knowing what I know, there’s no option but to succeed.
5. What was it like traveling around the world and seeing an array of ecosystems?
It was amazing. Diving in places like Cabo Pulmo and the Galapagos showed me what the oceans should look like and what they could look like if we stopped the destruction.
In Cabo, you could smell the Trevally before you saw them. Their schools were so vast they stretched from the surface to the bottom 100 feet down. Their backs stuck out of the water and made the air smell like fish. On one dive, I was surrounded by Panamic Porkfish. They formed a funnel around me and I called it a fish tornado – there were so many of them. During a surface interval, I was floating about 10 feet above some coral and there were 5 or 6 moray eels freely swimming beneath me. I’ve never seen that kind of behaviour anywhere. Usually morays are shy. They hide from humans. These ones had no fear. It was incredible.
The diversity of species in the Galapagos ranges from marine iguanas to schooling hammerheads. The sea turtles are massive and numerous, and, although illegal fishing still occurs, the Galapagos is a lot more protected than most parts of the ocean. There’s an abundance of life in the water.
That kind of abundance should be everywhere in the ocean, but most places are decimated because industrial fishing has wiped out 90% of the fish. The good news is that life can bounce back if we give it a chance. Cabo Pulmo is a success story of a place that was once heavily overfished. They stopped fishing and within 10 years the biomass increased by 450%. Now it’s a beautiful, thriving ecosystem.
6. Where is your favorite place to dive?
That’s a tough question. Maybe Bimini in the Bahamas because it’s home to my favourite species – the great hammerhead. And the nurse sharks there are really friendly.
7. What advice would you give to others who are passionate about protecting our oceans?
Take a big step, get in way over your head. Dedicate your life to this. Do the biggest thing you can think of. Let the size of the problem motivate you.
8. What was the biggest environmental issue you found on your journey?
Ocean acidification is the biggest issue facing the planet. A lot of the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere gets absorbed into the ocean, making the ocean more acidic. And in a more acidic environment any animal that builds a shell or a skeleton can’t form. Ocean acidification caused at least 4 of the 5 mass extinctions of the past. Now we’re causing the oceans to go acidic faster than in most of those extinctions. Acidification is predicted to dissolve coral reefs by 2070. It also threatens plankton – the creatures who form the base of the marine food web and produce the oxygen in two out of every three breaths we take. This is a massive problem for all life on earth, much bigger and potentially devastating than climate change. In order to turn it around we don’t just have to stop emitting CO2, we also have to pull carbon out of the atmosphere because there’s so much in the atmosphere already that ocean acidification could continue for the next 20 or 30 years even if we cut emissions to zero. 90% of the fish are gone, something like 98% of old growth forests and 99% of the prairies have been destroyed. Fish, forest and prairies all have the potential to sequester enormous amounts of carbon – some say even more than we’ve emitted since the industrial revolution – if we let them come back. We can turn this around and in doing so create a world that’s beautiful for all species.
Check Out Sea of Life