New Cinema Politica film takes a look at how the Irish government destroyed its fishing industry
What happens when the ocean becomes a battleground between two interest groups vying for two different resources in the same location? This issue is discussed in the documentary Atlantic—Cinema Politica’s latest film screened at Concordia, where fishermen are at odds with oil companies.
Drilling for oil in the ocean is a dangerous affair that can have catastrophic consequences, as was made evident by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. The Deepwater spill was the largest oil spill in human history—causing a range of human, economic and environmental crises.
Funded by the Irish Film Board, Atlantic depicts the struggle of Irish fishers in their daily battle with oil companies. To understand the extent of the problem, the filmmakers provide political background to help explain the current state of the country’s fishing industry.
In 1973, Ireland handed over the regulation of its waters to the European Union after becoming a member. Irish fishermen’s original control of 23 per cent of the country’s waters was reduced to a mere four per cent. This sent a wave of frustration through the many communities left entirely dependent on the fishing industry—and the situation was only about to get worse.
The European Union began drilling oil in the fishing ground, something the local fishermen found appalling. It had worked in Norway—the government created Stat Oil, a state-owned, highly regulated company and the country’s successful oil exportation ended up being rather beneficial for its citizens. Such success, however, was the result of the work of great politicians, according to the documentary. This political strength was not present in Ireland.
For one, the Irish government was not part of the decision-making process about drilling in its waters. In fact, the oil companies were the ones implementing the rules. This happened to be the case, because the Irish government wanted to export large quantities of oil in order to strengthen its economy thus they let the oil companies do what they wanted. The tax rates imposed on the oil businesses by the Irish government, more specifically Ray Burke, were the second most generous in the world. Given that these companies were not state-owned, oil exportation revenues did not profit the Irish economy, but instead were kept by the privately-owned companies. The politician responsible for this extremely loose regulation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ray Burke, was jailed in 2004 for tax fraud and corruption.
Furthermore, oil companies must generate underwater explosions every 10 seconds to locate the oil’s position. The operations are deafening and disruptive to mammals and fish who use sound waves to navigate, causing behavioural changes and loss of hearing. The fish population has substantially decreased since the start of these activities, putting strain on the ocean’s ecosystem and Ireland’s already struggling fishermen as shown in the documentary.
Atlantic is a beautiful documentary which showcases the ongoing battle between the fishermen and oil industries. With both after different resources in the area, tensions and disagreements were inevitable. The documentary leaves the viewer flabbergasted by both the imagery and the lack of judgement of the politicians involved.