Siren
"Siren" takes a narrative people are familiar with, i.e. mermaids, and uses it to showcase the dangers of pollution. (Image via Freeform)

Freeform’s ‘Siren’ Is a Not-So-Subtle PSA About the Effects of Ocean Pollution

The mermaids might be fake, but the environmental concerns aren’t.

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Siren

The mermaids might be fake, but the environmental concerns aren’t.

In the small fishing town of Bristol Cove, mermaids are nothing but a fairytale linked to the town’s founding and a good way to attract tourism. That is until a local fisherman goes missing and a strange, beautiful woman arrives in town. Freeform’s compelling series, “Siren,” follows this mysterious “woman” and her new human friends as she tries to find a safe home for herself and her family.

The series dives into the action during the very first episode as a group of fishermen accidentally catch a siren in one of their nets. They fend it off and, in the process, one of them is injured. Suddenly, a military helicopter swoops in and takes both the siren and the injured fisherman. The next day, the strange woman shows up in town. She is naked and can’t speak a word of English.

She befriends two local marine biologists: Ben Pownall, the son of the local fishing mogul, and Maddie Bishop. They realize that she is a siren and she quickly learns to communicate with them. She names herself Ryn and tells Ben and Maddie that the captured siren is her sister. She was captured because Ryn went off in search of food, which was severely depleted due to overfishing by the fishing company. The rest of the first season follows Ryn’s struggle against the military in getting her sister back and remaining safe from those who would harm them.

In the show, overfishing not only forces the sirens to go farther out for food, but also the sea lions who Maddie and Ben work with to take dangerous risks in search of food. In reality, it depletes the food source for both ocean life and humans.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, “Nearly a third of the world’s assessed fisheries are now in deep trouble.” However, not all fisheries are being assessed, so this is likely an understatement. In order to prevent overfishing, new rules and management systems need to be put in place to regulate how much a company is allowed to fish and how they are allowed to fish.

The second season brings a new threat — an oil company. As Maddie is working, the sea lions start to freak out for no reason. Then, several whales beach themselves on shore. Ryn, Ben and Maddie realize that something is wrong.

Deciding to figure out what it is, Ryn goes out into the ocean wearing a tracker. After swimming for awhile she finds a dead siren in the water, right before a loud noise sounds throughout the area. It throws Ryn backward in the water and she becomes disoriented and rushes for shore, Ben and Maddie right behind her. Once on land, she explains to them what happened, and they realize what is happening — the oil company is using sonic cannons to map the ocean floor.

Shortly after they realize this, more sirens show up in town, driven from the ocean by the cannons. As Ryn, Ben and Maddie manage the pack of sirens, they learn that the oil company, Klesco Oil, has found the potential for oil just off the coast of Bristol Cove. This means that they will bring in a drill ship and start “poking holes” in the ocean floor, looking for the oil deposits.

This practice is known as offshore drilling. In addition to the noise pollution that sonic cannons cause, the process of offshore drilling can cause many more types of pollution such as drilling muds, brine wastes, deck runoff water and flowline and pipeline leaks.

The oil rigs also dump a lot of waste into the surrounding water, which is toxic for the ocean life. In “Siren,” this is a concern not only for those who want to protect the wildlife, but also for the fishermen. The introduction of an oil rig would severely deplete the fish population and impact the fishermen’s livelihoods.

In light of this, Ben goes to his father, who owns the fishing company, to ask for his support in combating the oil company. In reality, concerns for wildlife and fishing are a concern, as well as for tourism. In many coastal towns, tourism is one of the top sources of income and employment. People come from all over to visit beaches and oil rigs would make their visits impossible. Consequently, many businesses, communities and politicians from coastal areas oppose this process.

A new, promising alternative to offshore drilling, which is not mentioned in “Siren,” is offshore wind. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is currently working with the U.S. Department of Energy to research offshore wind and its effects. Offshore wind are, in summary, wind farms constructed in large bodies of water. Most of these wind farms are in Europe, particularly off the coasts of the U.K. and Germany. Although this energy solution is promising, there are some concerns about its environmental impact, such as the potential of seabirds getting caught in the turbines, the disruption of the marine environment and potential noise pollution during construction.

Amidst drama, betrayal and intrigue, Freeform’s “Siren” emphasizes the impact ocean pollution can have on both ocean life and humanity. Through the lens of beautiful, mysterious ocean myths, the show draws attention to issues the audience may not have had contact with before. Personally, and I hope for many others, this show has increased my curiosity and concern for ocean pollution, which encouraged me to learn how I can help prevent it.

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