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Pulitzer Center Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital

Event Date:

March 26, 2024 | 7:00 PM EDT TO 9:00 PM EDT


Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
901 G Street Northwest Washington

Washington, DC 20001

A fishing vessel floats on the open sea in cloudy weather

A four-year investigation looks at human rights and environmental crimes on Chinese fishing ships.

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Multiple Authors
EFF Postcard

Deep Dives: Squid Fleets, Fisherfolk, and the Future of Our Oceans

Healthy oceans are vital to addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss. The life within produces half the oxygen we breathe, and more than 3 billion people—mainly in the Global South—rely on fish as the primary source of protein in their diet. Fisheries, aquaculture and post-harvest work provide employment and income for a significant percentage of the world’s population.

Emerging threats loom from potential industries like deep-sea mining and marine geoengineering. Despite covering 70% of the Earth’s surface, less than 8% of the ocean remains protected.

In recent years, international multilateral deals and agreements brought promise and active, engaged civil society entities are mobilizing around key issues such as deep-sea mining and water quality. These films shed light on threats still at large as well as community efforts to protect our oceans.

The Environmental Film Festival is free and open to the public. A Q&A with journalists Guia Baggi, Paola Martínez Gutiérrez, Trevor Hughes, and Ed Ou will follow the screenings, moderated by the Pulitzer Center's Steve Sapienza.


“Squid Fleet: The Brutal Lives of China's Industrial Fishermen”

Ed Ou, Will N. Miller, and Ian Urbina / The New Yorker, The Outlaw Ocean Project

The film uses a fictional narrative based on investigative reporting, and real footage, to capture gritty work at sea. It is part of a four-year investigation by The Outlaw Ocean Project that looks at human rights and environmental crimes on Chinese fishing ships and in Chinese processing plants, and how they connect to the global seafood market. This project concentrates on the geography that is the Ecuadorian waters near the Galápagos Islands because it is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and is being jeopardized by overfishing. This project focuses on China because its distant-water fishing fleet is so large, so widely dispersed, and so notoriously brutal.

“Closed Season: The Illegal Supply Chain Behind the Baby Octopus Delicacy"

Paola Martínez Gutiérrez, Claudia Ocaranza Abascal, and Patricio Aguilar Marquez / El País

The octopus fishery, known as the “fishery of hope,” supports some 20,000 fishermen in the Yucatan Peninsula. It is mainly exported to Europe and the U.S. with annual revenues of $27 million. But illegal capture and overexploitation pose risks to the health of fishermen and ecosystems. Exploiting regulatory loopholes and corruption, warehouse owners, cooperative leaders, and exporters employ these fishermen to supply the demand of octopus in Mexico and the international market throughout the year, ignoring fishing ban seasons, with at least 40% of illegal catches being sold as legal. Despite collective and individual efforts, researchers warn that ongoing illegal practices will lead to the impending collapse of the octopus fishery, when all that will be left to see at the bottom of Campeche’s ocean are construction vaults and plastic tubes.

“Catch Me If You Can”

Alfredo Torres and Linus Unah / Mongabay

The film shows how artisanal fishers on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast have been tackling the explosive growth of an invasive species: the red lionfish. Lionfish is invasive not only in the Caribbean but also in the Mediterranean Sea. The Med is currently home to more than 750 exotic species. Related reporting by journalist Guia Baggi delves into this problem and explores how some of these species have adverse ecological effects, but are also edible and even tasty. Observers often argue that eating invasive marine species is the best way to deal with them, but some scientists warn that this doesn’t always offer a straightforward solution. Setting up targeted fisheries to control marine invaders involves balancing many considerations: fishers’ interests, markets, government policy and conservation.

“Fishing the Four Corners of the United States To See Impacts of Climate Change”

Jasper Colt, Robert Hanashiro, Sandy Hooper, Trevor Hughes, Josh Morgan, Yannick Peterhans, Christopher Powers, Andrew P. Scott and Megan Smith / USA Today 

For the men and women who make their living fishing those waters, climate change is one more challenge they face atop normal seasonal variations and challenges such as high diesel prices, foreign competition, and the changing tastes of America's dinner tables. For a Pulitzer Center-supported USA Today series, journalists aimed to share a new and nuanced understanding of those challenges, and create a fuller appreciation of how climate change, for many farmers and fishers, is one more challenge to overcome.

“The Fishermen Snared in the Scarborough Shoal Dispute”

Shirin Bhandari / South China Morning Post

The Bajo de Masinloc, or Scarborough Shoal, as it is widely known, has been a contested region for the past decade, with the Chinese government claiming ownership despite an international court ruling favoring the Philippines. Those caught in the middle of this geopolitical storm are Philippine fishermen striving to provide food to feed their community. What can be done to protect these fishermen and the national resources of the Philippines from the increasing presence of bigger and more powerful Chinese fleets in the West Philippine Sea?


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Environment and Climate Change

Environment and Climate Change
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Labor Rights

Labor Rights