The Bluefin Tuna and The Monkey-Eating Eagle
JOHN HOPKINS AND THE BLUEFIN TUNA
Imagine this: you’re standing in the stern of a fishing boat, and an enormous fish – maybe 1000 pounds – rises out of the water to eat from your hand. There was such a moment in Jaws – and it was terrifying. This is not a shark, however, but a bluefin tuna, a fish that can cross an ocean in two weeks and swims faster than a torpedo. And it’s not you but the tuna that’s in danger.
This is the heart of John Hopkins’ acclaimed documentary film Bluefin, about the mysterious reappearance of the endangered bluefin tuna in the waters of Hopkins’ native Prince Edward Island. Generations of overfishing had so diminished their numbers that they were considered endangered. Traditionally, bluefin tuna travel north every summer from their breeding grounds in the Caribbean to feed on vast schools of mackerel, capelin and herring in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Recently, though, those food species have been diminishing — and yet the tuna are back. They are are normally shy and war, but now they seem to have lost their fear of fishermen and they appear to be starving.
John Hopkins is our newest Green Interview.
Like such other celebrated documentaries as Blackfish, The Cove, and the late Rob Stewart’s Sharkwater, John’s film is a meditation on the ignorance, greed and carelessness with which we treat the ocean. As our upcoming interview with the noted marine biologist Boris Worm reveals, we’re only now developing reliable methods of observing and understanding what’s actually happening in the oceans. John Hopkins’ concerns are even broader than that. His film asks why our social and political relationships as humans have made us incapable of managing a sustainable harmony with ocean wildlife – and how we can change that.
TONY OPOSA AND THE MONKEY-EATING EAGLE
The Philippine Eagle (historically known as the monkey-eating eagle) is the rarest eagle on earth — one of largest, most powerful and (frankly) most scary-looking of raptors. Despite its 200 cm wing span, it’s an agile flyer – and although its favourite food seems to be flying lemurs, it also eats monkeys, civets, squirrels, rats, bats, reptiles and other birds, not to mention occasional piglets, dogs and even small deer. A breeding pair requires a hunting range of about 100 square kilometers.
The eagles live exclusively in the old-growth forests of the Philippines, and as those forests have been razed, its numbers have plunged. About 600 remain, and they are the focus of an intense conservation effort particularly on the island of Mindanao, home of the Philippine Eagle Foundation. The Foundation has been increasingly successful because of its partnership with the Obu Manuvu people, who now regard the eagles as “pusaka” – sacred and essential, not to be violated – and actively protect them.
I know all this in part because I belong to the remarkable Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and receive its beautiful quarterly magazine Living Bird. The Lab is deeply concerned about the Philippine Eagle, and has recently released a film I’m eager to see. Bird of Prey: The Story of the Rarest Eagle on Earth has won numerous awards at film festivals, and is now available for download or rental at Amazon, iTunes and Vimeo.
And Antonio Oposa Jr. is the lawyer who sued the Philippine government, on behalf of future generations, to stop logging in the country’s old growth forests – and won. You can find Tony Oposa’s Green Interview here. I don’t know if Tony knew he was suing on behalf of unborn eagles as well as unborn humans, but he was. Everyone on earth who loves the gorgeous complexity and vitality of our planet owes a debt of gratitude to Tony – and to Cornell, and the Philippine Eagle Foundation, and the Obu Manuvu people. Long live the eagle – and God bless its defenders.