A new documentary about salmon hatcheries is hoping to transform the way we look at an industry that is destroying the environment for wild fish species.
The film, entitled “Artifishal: The Fight to Save Wild Salmon,” is produced by sportswear company Patagonia, and premiered with positive reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival this week, according to reporting from Mic. The film itself documents the salmon industry’s attempts to use “artificial” fish hatcheries to replicate breeding patterns to keep up with the demand for more fish to sell to consumers.
Fish hatcheries like these, many of them which exist alongside other fish in the wild, have been billed as a means to produce more product while also being supposedly environmentally friendly. But as the film lays out, these hatcheries actually cause harm to the natural environment, and could result in the extinction of wild-bred fish altogether.
Within the trailer of the film, one environmental activist is heard asking, “How far do we go to manufacture wildness?” while another explains that “we’re reversing natural selection” and “devolving” salmon species in the wild.
Artificially bred fish are shown to have different genetics than their wild cousins, as the two are separate and face different challenges from one another. Because of “artificial” selection — versus the natural selection that’s been going on for billions of years — introducing the “produced” fish to these other species has resulted in huge problems, resulting in dwindling numbers of salmon and other fish.
There are solutions available to solve the crisis. Indeed, in two locations highlighted in the film, within the states of Washington and Montana, when these hatcheries were removed from the wild the number of wild salmon thrived again.
The director of the film, Josh “Bones” Murphy, explained his intentions for the film in a recent interview with The Guardian.
“I really hope the film leaves the viewer with this disquieting question, which is, have we reached the end of wild?” Murphy said.
He also explained that, as with most films, this one has an antagonist — one that’s more familiar than some of us are probably willing to admit.
“At the outset we kept wondering if we would find a bad guy. And we didn’t. In fact, I kept feeling that the force of antagonism was us – we’re the bad guy. Because humans just are always looking out for themselves,” Murphy said.
Patagonia has devoted a webpage encouraging people to take action, if after seeing the film they feel like doing something to help. Among the actions the site encourages is to host a screening of the film yourself, by getting in touch with the producers directly.