CELS professor is a fresh face in the Netflix series, “Rotten”

The quest for Alaskan king crab lured fishermen from across the country during “a modern day gold rush,” producing nearly 200 million pounds of crab at its peak in 1980. Dr. Seth Macinko was among the fishermen who made his living on Alaska’s seas until a drastic decline in the king crab species caused the industry to unexpectedly collapse. It left hundreds of commercial fishermen like Macinko unemployed, and the crab species struggling to recover. “When the fishery closed, that’s when I started thinking more about fisheries management”.

Determined to become part of the solution, Macinko went from commercial fisherman to an internationally recognized fisheries policy expert.  An associate professor in the Department of Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences, Macinko’s research focuses on  fisheries management on a global scale. He’s consulted on fisheries issues around the world including Denmark, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Australia, and South Africa. Macinko has also appeared before the European Union’s fisheries committee.

“I’m one of the few people who speaks out against this trend toward privatization,” says Macinko, who strongly believes privatization of the commercial fishing industry is detrimental to small-scale and local fishermen, making it difficult for them to compete with large enterprise, both financially and on the water.  Select enterprises now effectively own the rights to major fisheries, according to Macinko, limiting opportunities for others, including communities and, particularly, future generations.

Macinko’s work attracted more than just researchers and academics. His expertise in fisheries policy and management in Alaska and New England also attracted the attention of filmmakers producing a documentary for Netflix.  While Macinko has appeared in smaller documentaries and videos in the past, he said nothing compared to the scale and reach of Netflix.

Macinko is featured in Season one: Episode six of the Netflix documentary “Rotten”, which focuses on various crises in the food industry. In the episode, Macinko describes a struggling industry, highlighting the challenges facing commercial fishermen including a  “crooked mogul,” foreign fish imports, and divisive regulations. The series also explores the impact of Federal policies in New England.

“The major thrust of my work has not been to argue for a specific outcome, it’s been that we should be having a much broader public debate about what we want to do,” added Macinko. “The stakes and implications are quite high.”

In addition to his role as an expert in the episode, Macinko also served as an advisor for the Netflix production crew, enlightening them on the world of fisheries policy and management.

Looking towards the future, Macinko’s research may turn to Denmark where efforts are underway to partially reverse some of the country’s prior privatization programs, and to Costa Rica where there is interest in developing alternatives to privatization.