The Story Behind CURRENT SEA by Christopher Smith and Stephanie Lincoln
Film Courage: CURRENT SEA is your latest project, a Kickstarter campaign which I think at this point has 64 hours left. What is it about and how did you find out about the subject matter?
Stephanie Lincoln: Well, I think Christopher can explain.
Christopher Smith: Okay. Well CURRENT SEA is an environmental thriller. It takes place in Cambodia and it explores the illegal fishing trade and also the corruption that kind of enables it to keep going. As most people are familiar with, Cambodia had a horrible genocide 30 or 40 years ago. And we didn’t really want to touch on that. But it does set the climate for what is going on there. Ever since that happened, the genocide wiped out a whole culture of academia and almost a whole generation of people. So now what you see of this is people who came into power and filled that vacuum (the power vacuum) and have been running the country for a long time. And the country has become really corrupt and has run on an informal economy. And it’s also undergoing rapid development now because the development had been so depressed for so long. And those two things together created this environment where lots of resource exploitation has been happening and the proceeds of that has not gone to the country but to individual members of the government and sort of rich people in the community who have relationships with the government.
How that played out in the oceans is that Cambodia is traditionally an agricultural economy on the coast line that means fishing and a lot of subsistence/small scale fishing. For the last 10 years or so there has been an increase in trawling activity. I can go into what trawling is in a minute. Also a lot of bigger boats coming in from neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam have started competing with the local fisherman on a more industrial scale, which in turn causes some of the local fisherman to ways of fishing that are often destructive forms of fishing techniques that are outlawed in most other countries and are outlawed in Cambodia, but those laws are just not enforced. It’s become this sort of arms race of destructive and illegal fishing. In order to get away with it they pay off the corrupt officials who pocket the money and choose not to enforce the law.
That is the background of the issue. What are film follows in particular is an investigative journalist who has been writing about these issue for the last 3 or 4 years in Cambodia (or actually 4 or 5 years at this point). And then our other main character is a conservationist who is trying to save a marine fisheries protected area (and in that process patrols it) and confronts a lot of these fisherman which often turns into various confrontations and conflicts and sometimes they are violent and sometimes they are dangerous for him and his crew. And they cause a lot of turmoil for his project, would you say?
Stephanie Lincoln: Yes.
Christopher Smith: So those are the two main characters. But we also follow some local people. There are actually 4 young Cambodian University students. They are (as far as we’re aware) some of the first in their country (particularly in their age) who are actively pursuing careers in marine conversation. And we follow the two female students in their group. They were staying with Paul [the conservationist] on the island to do their thesis project and they were doing it on creating a small artificial wreath and monitoring that. Which what they’ll learn there, Paul and his crew are scaling up now that they’ve been approved by their larger marine fisheries protected area. They are going to use that same process to demarcate the boundary of the area and kind of put in these snags for the trolley nets (watch the video interview on Youtube here)
An environmental thriller documentary exploring the illegal fishing trade in Cambodia and those who risk it all to intervene.
Over the past year we have been working on an exciting documentary that explores the illegal fishing trade in Cambodia.
Current Sea, is a heart-stopping verité style documentary that follows the stories of Matt Blomberg, a journalist who is investigating the unsustainable harvesting of ocean wildlife and the corruption that enables the black market to thrive, and Paul Ferber, an environmental activist who routinely puts himself in harm’s way as he patrols a small part of the ocean. The film also follows two Khmer university students who are some of the first of their generation to pursue careers in marine ecology.
Over the past year, we’ve been documenting their stories as well as the devastating impacts of illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing on the people and marine ecosystems of Cambodia.
But now we need your support to finish our investigations and get this film out to the world where it can make a difference.
Cambodia struggles with many environmental challenges. One such challenge is the illegal harvesting of marine wildlife, often times through destructive methods such as trawling.
Trawling is a type of fishing where heavy nets are dragged along the sea floor, scooping up fish and other creatures indiscriminately. The heavy nets scar the floor, destroying sea grasses, corals, and other delicate ecosystems. The damage from these nets lasts a long time, and their use jeopardizes other forms of small-scale and subsistence fishing.
Sea grasses, a primary habitat for seahorses, grow well in Cambodia’s shallow water. Seahorses are extremely important to its ecosystem and are a good indication of the health of the ocean – similar to a ‘canary in the coal mine’. However, the heavy trawling kills the seahorses and destroys their habitat. Despite it being illegal, seahorses are also hunted so that they can be infused in rice wine and sold as a cure for male impotence…(read more here via the Kickstarter page).
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