Industrial Fishing Is Wiping Out Sharks
There are more than 4,000 industrial fishing boats sweeping the Indian Ocean, many of them dropping more than 300 lines a day, each armed with more than 3,000 hooks—that's about a million hooks every day. While tremendously effective at catching fish, this method does not discriminate, and the fish that are reeled in—often already dead—include hundreds of sharks, despite the fact that in some places, like off the coast of Madagascar, catching sharks is illegal. Shark fins are incredibly valuable, and the appetite for these fins, and shark meat in general, is leading to a decimation of the world's shark populations. "When the sharks go, everything else starts to change," marine biologist Boris Worm tells VICE. "Where sharks are disappearing, the ecosystem becomes unstable, and it disintegrates the fabric of the food chain." These sharks are just the canary in the coal mine. Researchers estimate that if the rate of industrial fishing continues at its current pace, we could end up with no seafood species at all by the middle of this century—and local fishing communities in the Mozambique Channel are already feeling the effect.
Watch Countdown to Extinction now on VICE on HBO.
2. NEW YORK
The Reckless Disposal of Radioactive Waste
Ridgewood, Queens, was once home to the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company. For decades, the plant processed earth metals and disposed of the waste product, radioactive thorium, by flushing it down the sewer or burying it. They closed their doors in 1954, but the recklessly disposed thorium still lingers, making the site the most radioactive place in New York City. The area where the plant used to be is so radioactive that the Environmental Protection Agency has recently designated it a Superfund site. So we headed to Queens to explore the impact that the radioactivity has had on the surrounding businesses and to talk to the EPA about the site's history. From the new condos going up across the street to a nearby bodega, we met people who've been directly impacted by the 61-year-old nuclear relic and spoke to others who had no idea it existed.
Check out this episode of Transmissions, coming soon to Motherboard.VICE.com.
Feasting on Reindeer Meat Like a Viking
Ever heard of palt, spettekaka, or surströmming? In The Munchies Guide to Sweden, our host Ivar Berglin explores the cuisine of his home country and Europe's emerging culinary star. From reindeer to fermented herring, Ivar eats his way through the dishes that define the nation. He constructs a traditional smorgasbord in Gothenburg, carves up a whole goose in Malmö, sacrifices a reindeer with the indigenous Sami people in snowy Umeå, and eats like a Viking with Swedish techno legend E-Type in Stockholm. Finally, Ivar hits some of Sweden's top restaurants and meets chefs who are embracing a fresh culinary approach called new Nordic cuisine. If you're expecting meatballs, prepare to be disappointed. But (SPOILER ALERT!) there is a hot tub.
Watch The Munchies Guide to Sweden now on Munchies.VICE.com.
The Fruit-and-Mud Cure
We went to Espinazo, a little town in northern Mexico, to witness the biannual pilgrimage to El Niño Fidencio, attended by more than 40,000 people. Otherwise known as José de Jesús Fidencio Constantino Síntora, he earned a huge number of followers after the Mexican Revolution due to his gift for healing people. It is said that he used to perform surgery without any anesthesia and caused his patients no pain. He made it so disabled people could walk again and blind people could see, and according to urban legend, he cured Mexican president Plutarco Elías Calles of leprosy. His followers say that his spirit possesses them, allowing them to heal people. They cure the sick by putting them on a swing, throwing fruit at them, and submerging them in a mud puddle.
Check out this episode of Mexicalia, now playing on VICE.com.
The Worst Internships Ever
Japan is facing a serious labor shortage, thanks to its aging population and fear that immigrants will dilute its pure gene pool. We recently traveled there to investigate a government-sponsored plan for keeping the world's third-largest economy afloat: an internship program that attracts foreign workers from China, Vietnam, and the Philippines—but lets them stick around for only three years. The idea is that the workers return home with a transferable new skill. But we saw that many are being forced into a form of indentured servitude—being placed in unskilled positions, like oyster shucking and construction, underpaid, and beset with insurmountable debt. Despite international condemnation, Japan plans to bring thousands of new foreign "interns" to build the infrastructure for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Watch Japan's Labor Pains, coming soon to VICENews.com.