Our Planet season 1 review: A deteriorating circle of life

7 of 10

The Milky Way sets through the Tres Marias, or Three Marys rock formation, in the Valle de la Luna in Chile’s Atacama desert. Photo Credit: Netflix

Episode 6: The High Seas

Easily my favorite hour of Our Planet, this episode delves into the less explored parts of the oceans, of which we know less than we do about the moon. This episode is visually mind-blowing and at times, feels like a sci-fi movie with all the outlandish creatures that appear on the screen.

This episode has a brilliant aerial shot of around 10000 dolphins, hunting lantern fish, the most numerous fish in the sea. The feces of the dolphins provide nutrition to phytoplankton, microscopic plants responsible for half the oxygen in the atmosphere and also for the formation of clouds. This is but an example of the intricacies of the life that the sea supports an urgent need to conserve and salvage what we can of it.

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Darker regions of the sea, where light cannot reach it, are also explored by manually operated pressure resistant submarines. Contrary to initial belief, these dark areas have a lot more life than previously thought. Here, we see bioluminescent creatures, beautiful and almost alien-like in their experience. The oarfish, 10 meters long, hanging vertically, only been seen dead as they occasionally wash ashore, was captured on camera as it slowly moved upwards, glowing neon blue. The cystotome, a transparent, clear as glass deep-water crustacean was also spotted, as was a dragon fish and a deep sea angler fish.

These creatures, living in the dark and bioluminescent in nature create a sense of wonder and only furthers the question of how much more there is to be discovered on this rich planet.

The submarine reaches the deep sea plains, of which we practically know nothing about. Chimaera, 2 meters long and a relative of the shark, is one of the few creatures that thrive in this unexplored region. We know more of the moon than we do about these seemingly barren and dark plains.

A couple of miles off the coast of Florida, the series shows the ghostly lophelia, deep sea corals nearly 40,000 years old. They grow slowly but here, a rich community of marine life thrives and it acts as a nursery to many species. As with all good things, a large section of these corals has been destroyed by the fishing nets that humans drop into the sea, which drag across the floor damaging these delicate corals. They will take centuries to recover.

The bluefin tuna is then brought to our attention, as they hunt in hundreds for anchovies. The sea’s most impressive hunters, they grow up to 2 meters and are highly prized – almost to million dollars in Japan – and have therefore been hunted almost to extinction. Similarly, 100 million sharks are killed every year for shark fin soups and the rate of this industrialized fishing is causing a serious decline in fish stocks.

One-third of fishing stocks have collapsed, and this has taken a toll in many species of fish. With no competitors and no top predators prowling the sea, the squid has become abundant and their numbers are growing fast, causing creatures like sea lions to adapt to eating squid instead of the energy-rich anchovies and sardines they need.

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IMPORTANT TAKEAWAY: While plastic is dangerous and toxic to marine life, industrial fishing has caused more harm. Fishing on that scale has caused depletion of either predator or prey fish, which have in turn caused a decline of species that were dependent on the same. Eventually, this will become an issue for humans as well and much like the sea lions, we’ll have to make changes as well. But oceans, like every other habitat of nature, can recover quickly if just left well enough alone by the humans. The recovery of humpback makes is a good example.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Shot of a blue whale with her calf. A rare moment, never captured on the camera before. This is one of my favorites in the whole series because the gentleness of the blue whale shines through, and it’s so much more mind-boggling when you try to fathom the size of the blue whale. There’s something very calming about watching that calf appear shyly from under the mother to surface for a few seconds. Everyone say ‘Thank you, drones.’