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Silent Sentinels & The Perils of Plectropomus

Two companion coral reef films on special offer.

A printer-friendly version of this page Directed by Richard Smith
Produced by Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Science Unit


Coral reefs are the jewels of the ocean. Communities of organisms as rich and diverse as any above or below the surface of the planet, they encircle the tropics like an azure necklace.

1998 was designated 'International Year of the Oceans'. It turned out to be the year that coral reefs around the world began to die. Unprecedented mass bleaching swept the world's tropical oceans, in places leaving hundreds of miles of coral coastline - the fringes of entire countries in places - severely damaged. Following a number of similar but lesser events since the 1980s, this latest bleaching event is being touted as unequivocal proof that global warming has begun, and that it will have a greater impact than many think.

SILENT SENTINELS examines these claims and takes a step back to take a broader look at the coral organism and how it has coped with climate change over time. How coral both defines its environment and is created by it. It is a story of a polyp and a plant - one of the most successful biological relationships in the history of the earth.


In recent years scientists have pieced together the dramatic life cycle of reef fish like plectropomus, the coral trout. They have discovered it's a life lived against the odds.

Today it's not just the natural environment that threatens them; it's the impact of humans. People in the Far East have a tradition of eating fresh fish. In the last 10 years they've developed a taste for live reef fish, attracted by their spectacular color and markings. A live plectropomus can bring in big bucks.

After World War II fishermen used dynamite to catch reef fish. Today they use cyanide to catch them live. In addition to global warming, it's our appetites that are now threatening plectropomus, and everything on the living reef.

We used to think that the stock of reef fish was self-sustaining, but the more we learn about plectropomus, the more we understand the perils it faces.

Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2000     Copyright Date: 1999

"This is the most important movie on global warming to date...Has a much stronger impact than any written report"
Rafe Pomerance, key US global warming negotiator, former Deputy Asst. Secretary of State for Environment and Development

"Drawing connections between the biological processes of life and death in the reef ecosystem with climate patterns, the viewer directly experiences the evidence that has convinced the scientific community that global warming is having significant impacts on coral reefs...Silent Sentinels combines the dire predictions of the future with strategies for staving off massive disaster, making it an important film for anyone concerned with the marine environment."

Stuart Sandin, Coral Reef Ecologist, Princeton University
"This is an outstanding film."

David M. Anderson, Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado
"Startling graphics, beautiful images from many habitats, multiple interviews with top-notch scientists, and intelligent narration serve to inform and warn...The essential that market forces are driving an intense fishery for reef species about which we know enough to recognize their vulnerability, but not enough to specify sustainable fishing levels, or predict the ecosystem effects of their decimation..."
he Perils of Plectropomus" does a great job of recounting the natural history of the species... avoids errors of scientific convention, and effectively documents '...the pillage of coral reefs for short term gain.' We need more of this type and calibre of media for the communication of reef science to our students and employers."
Bruce G. Hatcher, Dept. of Biology, Dalhousie University

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DVDs include public performance rights.

Silent Sentinels & The Perils of Plectropomus

"(SILENT SENTINELS) is the most important movie on global warming to date." Rafe Pomerance, key US global warming negotiator, former Deputy Asst. Secretary of State for Environment

Awards and Festivals
Gold UNESCO Award, The New York Festivals
Best Environmental Film, Telescience, Canada
Best Nature Film, Ökomedia, Germany
Best Documentary, Ekofilm, Czech Republic
Best Foreign Film, Prix Leonardo, Italy
Finalist, Earth Vision, Japan
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital

Asian Studies
Central America/The Caribbean
Coast & Ocean
Developing World
Earth Science
Endangered Species
Environmental Ethics
Marine Biology
Marine Biology

Social Psychology

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The use of TEDs in shrimpers' nets would allow sea turtles to escape.

... more Reviews

"An informative video and highly recommended addition to school and community library... video collections."
Wisconsin Bookwatch

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