SEA OF SHADOWS – Review by Susan Granger

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If you’re like me, you’ve never heard of the vaquita, a small porpoise that lives only in the Sea of Cortez, an area between Baja, California, and mainland Mexico that Jacques Cousteau called “the aquarium of the planet.”

Unfortunately, vaquitas often accompany totoaba fish whose swim bladders are so valued in China that they’re considered “aquatic cocaine.” So when fisherman use huge nets to catch totoaba, they also ensnare so many vaquita that they’re now high on the endangered species list.

While it’s acknowledged that Chinese criminal syndicates fund illicit totoaba trafficking, rampant institutional corruption, inherent in Mexico, prevents law enforcement.

To focus attention on the plight of the vaquita, television newsman Carlos Loret de Mola focuses on various aspects of the dilemma – from the poor village fishermen in San Felipe who are caught in the economic crossfire to myriad conservation efforts.

Aboard a vessel called the Sea Shepherd, Jack Hutton belongs to volunteer group that uses drones to stalk sneaky totoba poachers at night in order to cut and empty their illegal, habitat-destroying gill nets.

Dr. Cynthia Smith works with a group of scientists who propose that, in order to save the vaquita species, the last few of these marine mammals should be caught and bred in captivity until they can returned to their natural habitat. But will their sanctuary concept work?

Meanwhile, Andrea Crosta, executive director/co-founder of Earth League International (formerly Elephant Action League), has undercover operatives tracing totoaba black-market links in China, describing the vaquita situation as “an extinction in real time, entirely driven by greed.”

Partially funded by Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions, it’s directed by Austrian cinematographer Richard Ladkani (“The Ivory Game”), winning Sundance’s Audience Award for World Documentary.

In English and Spanish with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Sea of Shadows” is a suspenseful 7, chronicling an ecological crisis.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.