'Artifishal': New Film Asks, Have We Reached the End of Wild?
That salmon sitting in your neighborhood grocery store's fish counter won't look the same to you after watching Artifishal, a new film from Patagonia.
The project, which got its start when Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard wanted to make a film about the arrogance of humankind, turned out to be a film about salmon … and what we're doing to them.
The film uses salmon as a lens to tell a larger story about wilderness.
"It's about how we keep trying to control nature rather than allowing it to do what it does," said the film's director, Josh Murphy.
Artifishal looks specifically at how fish hatcheries and fish farms threaten wild salmon populations, which in turn has ecosystem-wide effects — all because of our desire to eat these culturally significant species.
"We fell in love with this wild thing and then we took too many of them and we degraded the environments that produce them," explained Murphy of the genesis of the film.
But instead of helping wild salmon recover, we've created hatcheries and farms to make more of them — at great cost, both economically and ecologically. The film explores the process, the tradeoffs and what's at stake if we continue down this path.
As Artifishal and its filmmakers travel around the country conducting screenings with community organizations, we spoke with Murphy about what he learned making the film and why wild salmon are so important.
It seems like the heart of this film is fish hatcheries, which don’t get a lot of attention. What did you learn about them?
There's this narrative that hatcheries are a good thing. But I wanted to know where that came from because there's no other animal that I can find that's mass produced, much less by a state or a federal government, and then released into the wild. It doesn't happen.
I found the story of George Perkins Marsh, who wrote a book in 1864 called Man and Nature about the irreparable harm humans were having on the environment. And that was a big thing. Creeks and rivers had been so degraded by industry, dams, mills and forest practices [that] he proposed that we should restore fish. He had just heard about this technique brought over by some French guys about how to take the fish eggs and milt and combine them. And he thought that this is how we'll solve the problem — we're just going to make more fish. Within five years of the Civil War ending there were fish hatcheries all over New England.
It played on our agricultural norms — we do this for chickens, sheep, cows — of course we're going to do this for fish. But we didn't realize that fish are going into an uncontrolled environment.
What are some of the risks to wild salmon from this?
Fast forward to today and now you have certain people who wanted to further degrade rivers, for example, people that want to develop the rivers for hydropower, and they're allowed to do that — they can dam the whole river and just put a hatchery at the bottom of it.
Hatcheries have enabled people to believe that you could control the river and still have fish.
And what we're realizing now is the science over the last 25 years says that's a completely false narrative. It's actually degrading the biological diversity.
By bringing fish into a hatchery, you're decreasing all of the natural selection that would have happened and so you're taking the fitness out. And then we started selecting certain breeds within a river, like fall-run Chinook, because it was easier and cheaper for us to produce those. But we only do that with economically viable species, not the biologically viable species. So we don't have, for example, hatcheries for lampreys, which are an important part of the ecosystem. And we don't have hatcheries for spring-run in many places or winter-run, which some rivers have. It's only fall-run.
I think the scariest thing is that in choosing as we are, we are actually degrading the fishes' ability to adapt in the future to things like climate change. They're becoming more like a monocrop.
The first part of the film is about hatcheries and then it jumps to fish farms. You show the risks of Atlantic salmon being raised in open pens in Pacific waters. Was this a commentary on that practice specifically or fish farms in general?
Net-pen salmon farms concentrate fish at unnaturally high levels, creating ideal conditions for disease, parasites and other health issues. Alta, Norway.
In open net-pen aquaculture, when you have opportunities for the farmed fish to escape and interbreed with wild fish — when you have Atlantic salmon in the Pacific — one has to wonder, what are we doing? What's driving this? And it's just money.
There are other ways. There're opportunities for fish to be raised on land with either freshwater or saltwater with less harm to the wild environment. But we don't do it because we want more money. Floating a net in the ocean costs nothing. You don't even pay property taxes. You may have a license fee to the state, but that's it. And you get to dump everything into the water.
We may need to have aquaculture in the future and I think that it's a promising sector. But if we need more fish, if there's a demand for that, we need to do it in a way that does not harm wild fish.
What do we lose if we don’t have wild salmon?
There're the obvious benefits that salmon give to ecosystems.
So for example, right now in rivers that have hatcheries, there's often a fish weir on the river and the fish will swim up to it until they can go no further. So they've taken all of the nutrients that they have acquired in the ocean, and they swim up to that weir, turn the corner and they swim themselves into the hatchery. The hatchery kills the fish, takes the gametes, makes the new generation and throws the fish into a landfill. All of those nutrients that used to funnel from the ocean to the headwaters of these rivers are gone. That means all of the animals that relied on those nutrients no longer have that.
But we don't care because we just want to make more fish and release them. For who? Commercial and sport fishers. That's it. That means there's no other value that salmon have to anything else in the ecosystem. If fish are not seen as wildlife and they're only seen as food and fun, then we will just try to churn them out and manufacture them as quickly as we can because of the economic benefits.
But we don't do that for grizzly bears. We don't have hatcheries for deer, for elk, for waterfowl. When you hear the word "hatchery," it sounds quaint, but if we call these "fish factories," which is what they really are, people might consider the whole thing differently.
Raceways for raising juvenile spring Chinook salmon at the Sawtooth Hatchery, in Stanley, Idaho which is managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
What do you hope people take away from this film?
If we don't respect wild and we just try to replicate them in farms and replicate them in hatcheries, then we could lose wild altogether. What I hope the movie leaves people with is this kind of disquieting question, which is, are we at the end of wild?
If we are then that's a really frustrating reality. If, in fact, that's what we've decided, what then for birds? What then for bears? For elephants?
Some people just don't want to hear that because they're so focused on themselves — their livelihood or their recreation. But what about the rest of the entire ecosystem that relies on wild fish? It's not just about us. That is the arrogance of man — this whole story is just about us. And I think that's what we have to reconsider.
Fish are really indicators of water quality. I think about that in terms of the metaphor of the canary in the coal mine. If a miner was descending into a mine and the canary dies, it says to the miner, "don't go any farther." Right?
With fish it's like we're descending into that mine, the fish dies, and we just make more of them to put in the cage. It's telling us something. It's saying the environment can't support them. Fix that problem. Don't make more of them. We have to fix the disease, not just manage the symptom, which is a lack of fish. And until we do that, our future for wild fish, and our future for other wild things is in question.
Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist,Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
In 2010, world leaders agreed to 20 targets to protect Earth's biodiversity over the next decade. By 2020, none of them had been met. Now, the question is whether the world can do any better once new targets are set during the meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Kunming, China later this year.
- Ocean Scientists Create Global Network to Help Save Biodiversity ... ›
- 5 Reasons Why Biodiversity Matters - EcoWatch ›
- 26 Organizations Working to Conserve Seed Biodiversity - EcoWatch ›
- The Top 10 Ocean Biodiversity Hotspots to Protect - EcoWatch ›
- New Platform Shows How to Protect Biodiversity and Save Planet ... ›
- These Scientists Are Listening to the Borneo Rainforest to Protect ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Andrew Rosenberg
The first 24 hours of the administration of President Joe Biden were filled not only with ceremony, but also with real action. Executive orders and other directives were quickly signed. More actions have followed. All consequential. Many provide a basis for not just undoing actions of the previous administration, but also making real advances in public policy to protect public health, safety, and the environment.
- Here Are Biden's Day One Actions on Climate and Environment ... ›
- UCS Offers Science Advice for Biden Administration - EcoWatch ›
A first-of-its-kind study has examined the satellite record to see how the climate crisis is impacting all of the planet's ice.
- 'Ghost Forests' Are an Eerie Sign of Sea-Level Rise - EcoWatch ›
- Sea-Level Rise Takes Business Toll in North Carolina's Outer Banks ... ›
- Sea Level Rise Is Locked in Even If We Meet Paris Agreement ... ›
By Ana Maldonado-Contreras
- Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
- Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
- New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.
You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
How Do Resident Bacteria Keep You Healthy?<p>Our immune defense is part of a complex biological response against harmful pathogens, such as viruses or bacteria. However, because our bodies are inhabited by trillions of mostly beneficial bacteria, virus and fungi, activation of our immune response is tightly regulated to distinguish between harmful and helpful microbes.</p><p>Our bacteria are spectacular companions diligently helping prime our immune system defenses to combat infections. A seminal study found that mice treated with antibiotics that eliminate bacteria in the gut exhibited an impaired immune response. These animals had low counts of virus-fighting white blood cells, weak antibody responses and poor production of a protein that is vital for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1019378108" target="_blank">combating viral infection and modulating the immune response</a>.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0184976" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In another study</a>, mice were fed <em>Lactobacillus</em> bacteria, commonly used as probiotic in fermented food. These microbes reduced the severity of influenza infection. The <em>Lactobacillus</em>-treated mice did not lose weight and had only mild lung damage compared with untreated mice. Similarly, others have found that treatment of mice with <em>Lactobacillus</em> protects against different <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/srep04638" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">subtypes of</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-17487-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">influenza</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">virus</a> and human respiratory syncytial virus – the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39602-7" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">major cause of viral bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children</a>.</p>
Chronic Disease and Microbes<p>Patients with chronic illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease exhibit a hyperactive immune system that fails to recognize a harmless stimulus and is linked to an altered gut microbiome.</p><p>In these chronic diseases, the gut microbiome lacks bacteria that activate <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">immune cells</a> that block the response against harmless bacteria in our guts. Such alteration of the gut microbiome is also observed in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1002601107" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">babies delivered by cesarean section</a>, individuals consuming a poor <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12820" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">diet</a> and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11053" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elderly</a>.</p><p>In the U.S., 117 million individuals – about half the adult population – <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">suffer from Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease or a combination of them</a>. That suggests that half of American adults carry a faulty microbiome army.</p><p>Research in my laboratory focuses on identifying gut bacteria that are critical for creating a balanced immune system, which fights life-threatening bacterial and viral infections, while tolerating the beneficial bacteria in and on us.</p><p>Given that diet affects the diversity of bacteria in the gut, <a href="https://www.umassmed.edu/nutrition/melody-trial-info/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">my lab studies show how diet can be used</a> as a therapy for chronic diseases. Using different foods, people can shift their gut microbiome to one that boosts a healthy immune response.</p><p>A fraction of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, develop severe complications that require hospitalization in intensive care units. What do many of those patients have in common? <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Old age</a> and chronic diet-related diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.</p><p><a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2008.12.019" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Black and Latinx people are disproportionately affected by obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease</a>, all of which are linked to poor nutrition. Thus, it is not a coincidence that <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6933e1.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these groups have suffered more deaths from COVID-19</a> compared with whites. This is the case not only in the U.S. but also <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/blacks-in-britain-are-four-times-as-likely-to-die-of-coronavirus-as-whites-data-show/2020/05/07/2dc76710-9067-11ea-9322-a29e75effc93_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in Britain</a>.</p>
Discovering Microbes That Predict COVID-19 Severity<p>The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired me to shift my research and explore the role of the gut microbiome in the overly aggressive immune response against SARS-CoV-2 infection.</p><p>My colleagues and I have hypothesized that critically ill SARS-CoV-2 patients with conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease exhibit an altered gut microbiome that aggravates <a href="https://theconversation.com/exercise-may-help-reduce-risk-of-deadly-covid-19-complication-ards-136922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acute respiratory distress syndrome</a>.</p><p>Acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening lung injury, in SARS-CoV-2 patients is thought to develop from a <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cytogfr.2020.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fatal overreaction of the immune response</a> called a <a href="https://theconversation.com/blocking-the-deadly-cytokine-storm-is-a-vital-weapon-for-treating-covid-19-137690" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cytokine storm</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">that causes an uncontrolled flood</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of immune cells into the lungs</a>. In these patients, their own uncontrolled inflammatory immune response, rather than the virus itself, causes the <a href="http://doi.org/10.1007/s00134-020-05991-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">severe lung injury and multiorgan failures</a> that lead to death.</p><p>Several studies <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2020.08.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">described in one recent review</a> have identified an altered gut microbiome in patients with COVID-19. However, identification of specific bacteria within the microbiome that could predict COVID-19 severity is lacking.</p><p>To address this question, my colleagues and I recruited COVID-19 hospitalized patients with severe and moderate symptoms. We collected stool and saliva samples to determine whether bacteria within the gut and oral microbiome could predict COVID-19 severity. The identification of microbiome markers that can predict the clinical outcomes of COVID-19 disease is key to help prioritize patients needing urgent treatment.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.05.20249061" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">We demonstrated</a>, in a paper which has not yet been peer reviewed, that the composition of the gut microbiome is the strongest predictor of COVID-19 severity compared to patient's clinical characteristics commonly used to do so. Specifically, we identified that the presence of a bacterium in the stool – called <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em>– was a robust predictor of COVID-19 severity. Not surprisingly, <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> has been associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2011.05.035" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">chronic</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-9440(10)61172-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammation</a>.</p><p><em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> collected from feces can be grown outside of the body in clinical laboratories. Thus, an <em>E. faecalis</em> test might be a cost-effective, rapid and relatively easy way to identify patients who are likely to require more supportive care and therapeutic interventions to improve their chances of survival.</p><p>But it is not yet clear from our research what is the contribution of the altered microbiome in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. A recent study has shown that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.11.416180" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers an imbalance in immune cells</a> called <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/imr.12170" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">T regulatory cells that are critical to immune balance</a>.</p><p>Bacteria from the gut microbiome are responsible for the <a href="https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.30916.001" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">proper activation</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of those T-regulatory</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nri.2016.36" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cells</a>. Thus, researchers like me need to take repeated patient stool, saliva and blood samples over a longer time frame to learn how the altered microbiome observed in COVID-19 patients can modulate COVID-19 disease severity, perhaps by altering the development of the T-regulatory cells.</p><p>As a Latina scientist investigating interactions between diet, microbiome and immunity, I must stress the importance of better policies to improve access to healthy foods, which lead to a healthier microbiome. It is also important to design culturally sensitive dietary interventions for Black and Latinx communities. While a good-quality diet might not prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, it can treat the underlying conditions related to its severity.</p><p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ana-maldonado-contreras-1152969" target="_blank">Ana Maldonado-Contreras</a> is an assistant professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.</em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Ana Maldonado-Contreras receives funding from The Helmsley Charitable Trust and her work has been supported by the American Gastroenterological Association. She received The Charles A. King Trust Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. She is also member of the Diversity Committee of the American Gastroenterological Association.</em></p><p><em style="">Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-healthy-microbiome-builds-a-strong-immune-system-that-could-help-defeat-covid-19-145668" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet is the latest must-read book by leading climate change scientist and communicator Michael Mann of Penn State University.
- 12 New Books Explore Fresh Approaches to Act on Climate Change ... ›
- Dr. Michael Mann on Climate Denial: 'It's Impaired Our Ability to ... ›