News

Film Explores Decline of Coral Reefs

Pollution, overfishing destroy 20 percent of world’s reefs

Jelly Fish Lake is an ancient marine habitat containing millions of jellyfish on the island nation of Palau.
Jelly Fish Lake is an ancient marine habitat containing millions of jellyfish on the island nation of Palau.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

By focusing its lens on coral reefs, “The Last Reef 3D: Cities Beneath the Sea,” turns the ocean’s tiniest creatures into movie stars.

The new film explores how this habitat, which shelters nearly a quarter of Earth’s marine life and provides food for billions of people, is under siege from overfishing, urban and industrial pollution and rising ocean temperatures.

The movie captures the drama of daily life from  Palau, French Polynesia to the Bahamas and Mexico. Filmmakers Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas didn’t just want to make a beautiful film; they also wanted to make a responsible one.


“If you want to protect something you have to first appreciate it,” says Cresswell.  

McNicholas adds, “What we wanted to do was show the range and breadth and diversity of life and how all these things interconnect and how losing one element will have a domino effect for that whole ecosystem.”

We take a dip into a marine lake with millions of jellyfish on the Island nation of Palau in the South Pacific. Elsewhere we watch large ocean predators and tiny denizens of the sea like the strangely alien nudibranch and Christmas tree worms.

Shooting the film in 3-D using special macro, or close-up lenses, adds a powerful visual impact on the giant screens found in many science museums.

“The Last Reef” also shows that reefs are in serious decline.

Reefs are suffering “from impacts related to climate change, the warming sea surface temperatures, ocean acidification and land-based sources of pollution and overfishing,” according to John Christensen, director of the Coral Reef Conservation program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

These threats have destroyed 20 percent of the world’s reefs and another 20 percent are likely to decline significantly by 2030, he says. “So not only do we see more dead coral in places that are in serious decline, we see a reduction in biodiversity at large.”

McNicholas and Cresswell hope their film both educates audiences and motivates them to get involved in efforts to save the reefs. A recurring theme is the connection between the cities we live in and those under the sea on which we depend.

Making of "The Last Reef"


“I think that if you’re using time lapses and aerials in a city, it makes you look at the city in a different way," Cresswell says. "You look at the collection of people and you look at the collection of buildings and that helps you look at the reefs.”

These two worlds join in an undersea park in Mexico filled with hundreds of life-sized sculptures cast from real people and objects. The sculptures become the base for a new marine habitat. As children dive in to swim among the art works, the film ends with the message that preserving the coral reefs is “a responsibility we cannot ignore.”

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Molly
April 21, 2012 7:46 AM
What an amazing film...saw at The Smithsonian last month. It was beautifully done!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs