Last week, in collaboration with Philanthropy New York and the Environmental Grantmakers Association, we held a special screening and discussion of the award-winning film Sea of Shadows, a new film by National Geographic that serves as a blueprint for how a conservation effort can come together in spite of widespread institutional corruption and dangerous cartels.

In the Gulf of California, totoaba fish are being illegally overfished by Mexican cartels and Chinese traffickers because of a belief among some in China that their bladders possess healing powers. But the deadly methods of harvesting totoaba, also a critically endangered fish, are threatening to wipe out the vaquita—the world’s smallest whale. In fact, it’s estimated that fewer than 15 vaquitas remain. Sea of Shadows follows undercover investigators, environmentalists, journalists and the Mexican Navy in their efforts to rescue the vaquita from total extinction.


It’s encouraging to see an impact campaign that starts with the documentary but has plans to continue long after the release of the film. Ru Mahoney, the film’s impact producer, credits National Geographic for its commitment to distributing the film worldwide and “continuing to invest in the impact campaign as a central piece of the film’s marketing.”

Some of the goals of the campaign include saving the vaquita from imminent extinction, securing the environmental integrity of the Upper Gulf of the Sea of Cortez (a UNESCO World Heritage site), increasing global awareness of the links between wildlife trafficking and global security threats, and rallying support for sustainable fishing and alternative livelihoods in the Upper Gulf.

“Sea of Shadows is an example of what is possible when impact strategy, creative vision and global reach collide,” Mahoney says. “Director Richard Ladkani and Terra Mater Factual Studios had the vision and talent to craft an eco-thriller with heart and high stakes that really captivates audiences in a way that helps them tackle the complexity of this issue.”

Mahoney adds that the film offers a holistic approach, “where impact strategies are at the heart of your narrative choices, the characters you choose, the film’s marketing plan and of course the outreach and action efforts that follow.”

Sea of Shadows is in select theaters now. Learn more.

In response to the increasingly urgent need to address global climate change, Media Impact Funders will be prioritizing programming around the environment. We’re committed to helping funders engage in conversations around the narrative change needed to shift policy, behavior and culture. In convening funders both in person and online, we will create opportunities to talk, learn, share and collaborate. We are inviting all funders, whether you expressly support media or not, to join us in this cause. Learn more.

About the Author
Nina Sachdev

Nina Sachdev

Director of Communications

Nina Sachdev brings more than 20 years of journalism, news editing and marketing experience to her role as a communications director for Media Impact Funders (MIF). Since joining MIF in 2016, Nina has been leading efforts to showcase the power of media, journalism and storytelling to the philanthropic community. Through strategic communications, member engagement strategies and high-profile speaking events, Nina works to educate and inspire funders to make more strategic decisions about their media funding. Nina brings with her from her journalism days a special focus on sexual assault and reproductive health, and is a tireless advocate for the importance of quality, impactful media and journalism around these topics.
Nina cut her teeth in journalism at The Dallas Morning News, where—as an intern on the copy desk—she was tasked with editing the obituaries of famous people who hadn’t yet died. Since then, Nina has worked at The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, The Philadelphia Daily News and The Philadelphia Weekly in almost every editorial capacity imaginable, including senior editor, A1 editor (when that used to be a thing) and slot (does anyone remember that being a thing?).
Nina is the creator and editor of the award-winning The Survivors Project: Telling the Truth About Life After Sexual Abuse, which exposes the reality of healing from the effects of sexual abuse. Nina holds an M.A. in journalism from Temple University. She lives in Philadelphia with her family.