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How SIREN’s Killer Mermaids Expose Environmental Issues (Really)

The killer mermaids of Freeform’s new series Siren are surfacing in the small coastal town of Bristol Cove for a very simple reason: they’re hungry.

The series takes place in the small coastal town of Bristol Cove, a city with a strong history of mermaid lore. Legend has it that the half-woman, half-fish creatures once roamed the town — and with the appearance of the mysterious new girl in town, Ryn (Eline Powell), it appears they might be back. But why?

Because this mermaid story has more in common with Jaws than The Little Mermaid, the mermaids are attacking people. But unlike in Jaws, there’s a clear reason why they’re doing so: their natural food source has been completely depleted by overfishing.

“What drives the whole story, the bigger story, is a very real and relevant environmental issue: The seabeds are being stripped,” says star Rena Owen, who plays Bristol Cove’s resident eccentric, Helen, who tries to warn her fellow residents of the dangers of the mermaids in town. “They have no food. And that’s what made Ryn come to the surface is to look for food.”

According to the World Wildlife Federation, not only does overfishing affect the populations of fish that are unable to reproduce at the rates at which they’re being removed from the oceans (or lakes or rivers or other bodies of waters), it also affects “the balance of life in the oceans … [and] the economic and social well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for their way of life.”

Unsustainable fishing practices and increased fishing in the past few decades have seriously depleted fish stocks all over the world, and the fishing of top predators has increased the population of smaller fish such as sardines and anchovies, per the WWF.

For Owen, who comes from a small coastal town in New Zealand, the issue hits particularly close to home as fishermen from her hometown are out of work.

“Even in New Zealand where I come from, the sea beds have been stripped. The kids I grew up with don’t have jobs anymore because there’s nothing to fish anymore.”

Deep sea fisherman Xander (Ian Verdun), marine biologists Ben (Alex Roe) and Maddie (Fola Evans-Akingbola) are not only trying to solve Bristol Cove’s overfishing issue, they’re also trying to figure out what creature is attacking people and why they’ve come to town at all.

Sibongile Mlambo, who plays the mysterious Donna, tells Nerdist on a visit to the series’ Vancouver set that working on the series has awakened a newfound environmental awareness in her.

“It’s opened me up to a lot of environmental issues, stuff that we don’t really think about. If you’re ignorant about it then you’re not going to worry about it but we just have to be really careful what we do to the planet as humans.”

Siren premieres Thursday, March 29 at 8 p.m. on Freeform.

Images: Freeform


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