Entangled: A Whale of a Problem

Save the whales! They?re going extinct!

But, also? Save the economy! Our fishermen are suffering!

As a part of The Impact Series, Entangled follows the fight to save the North Atlantic Right Whale. With each passing year, the Right Whale population has decreased with alarming speed at the hands of careless fishing boats who run the harbour. With less than 350 whales left in the species, it?s not an exaggeration to suggest that the Right Whale is on the brink of extinction yet, their survival is not the only side to this story. Though the whales live in peril, so too are the new restrictions affecting the livelihood of those in the fishing industry and threatening their financial stability as well.

Directed by David Abel, Entangled is a fairly comprehensive look at the complicated relationship between the Right Whale and the local fishing industry. Without question, the film is a call to put concerted effort into saving a species on the brink of being wiped out from history. Having been pushed out of their normal feeding areas due to global warming and changing water temperatures, the Right Whale has migrated into the path of East Coast fisherman. Because they continue to get tangled in the underwater fishing apparatus, these gentle giants have become an increasing casualty of the lobster fishing industry. 

At the same time, Abel refuses to leave the argument that one-sided. Whereas most documentaries in the past have spent its runtime explaining the imminent danger to losing another beloved species to extinction, Entangled takes a more balanced approach in its narrative. Instead, the film is also about how the futures of the right whale and that of the local residents are? well? entangled with one another. While the rescue of the Right Whale is a noble effort, so too does the film point out that the intent of the fisherman is really only to support their own livelihood. To them, the primary issue becomes whether or not they?re allowed to continue their lobster fishing. As further restrictions are placed on them that benefit the safety of the whale, it becomes increasingly difficult for local fisherman to feed their families and pay their mortgages. Although there are some that care little about the safety of the whale, most of those in the industry presented here are concerned yet have few answers. 

As such, Abel points out that the two worlds have become intertwined in a battle for recognition. Inasmuch as the whale population deserves the right to be a thriving member of our underwater ecosystem, so too do those in the fishing industry simply want to survive themselves. Both want to be protected and both want to be heard by advocates for the other. To its credit, Abel takes an equal approach to the film that allows both issues to feel essential. In this way, Entangled feels like a fresh approach to the topic as Abel?s decision to acknowledge the desire for everyone to co-exist allows for both sides to keep their value.

To him, both issues matter.

Although the film doesn?t necessarily have the answers, it does suggest that maybe we need to change the questions. Rather than continue to restrict line usage by fisherman, Abel suggests that maybe the development of new technologies will also open up the potential for new possibilities that support both sides. Even though questions like cost-effectiveness and viability remain, the film asks for creativity and new thinking that will help work through these issues from new angles, as oppose to the ?same old? directives.

Sharp and informative, there?s a lot to like about Entangled. Despite the fact that Abel clearly views the health of the Right Whales as of primary importance, he also takes into consideration the effect that their preservation has on those on land as well. In doing so, he effectively shows the ways in which our decisions affect one another and the humility that it will take to find new solutions, especially when the fate of everyone involved becomes Entangled together.

Entangled is available on in theatres in Vancouver and Montreal now.

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