Forty-thousand liters (approximately 10,600 gallons) of diesel oil have spilled into the waters of Chile's Patagonia, a biodiversity hotspot at the tip of South America.
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.
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?<p>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.</p><p><span></span>I found the story of George Perkins Marsh, who wrote a book in 1864 called <em>Man and Nature</em> 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.</p><p>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.</p>
What are some of the risks to wild salmon from this?<p>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.</p><p>Hatcheries have enabled people to believe that you could control the river and still have fish.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p>
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?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTU5NzEwMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MjIyOTQ0Mn0.oSyGlzWEpbRAPmS2Wdphaso9r96i5Is6EPDVsn0UlWc/img.jpg?width=980" id="db819" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d0e3d36540482e8510ffb688f771f501" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Net-pen salmon farms concentrate fish at unnaturally high levels, creating ideal conditions for disease, parasites and other health issues. Alta, Norway.
Ben Moon<p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p>
What do we lose if we don’t have wild salmon?<p>There're the obvious benefits that salmon give to ecosystems.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p>
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?<p>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?</p><p>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?</p><p>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.</p><p>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?</p><p>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.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
"Based on last year's irresponsible tax cut, Patagonia will owe less in taxes this year—$10 million less, in fact. Instead of putting the money back into our business, we're responding by putting $10 million back into the planet. Our home planet needs it more than we do," CEO Rose Marcario wrote in a LinkedIn blog post published Wednesday.
Tomorrow, America heads to the polls for the midterm elections, and, as EcoWatch has pointed out, these are very important elections for the environment, giving voters a chance to fight back against the Trump administration's agenda of ignoring climate change and opening public lands to drilling and mining.
Update: The window for photo submissions has ended. The winner will be announced this Wednesday, November 21.
EcoWatch is pleased to announce its first photo contest! Show us what in nature you are most thankful for this Thanksgiving. Whether you have a love for oceans, animals, or parks, we want to see your best photos that capture what you love about this planet.
The civic-minded retailer is backing two Democrats in two crucial Senate races: the re-election of Sen. Jon Tester of Montana; and Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is trying to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada.
Researchers with the European Space Agency (ESA) have mapped in stunning detail the extensive retreat of South America's Patagonian ice fields, where some glaciers are melting at the highest rates on Earth and contribute to global sea level rise.
In a report this week, ESA revealed that between the years 2011 and 2017, Patagonia's ice fields receded at a rate of more than 21 gigatonnes (Gt)—21 billion metric tons—a year, the equivalent to adding 0.06 millimeters to global sea level.
By Robin Walter
After fording a rib-deep and bone-cracking cold river whose current could have easily swept away a person much bigger than I am, I took stock of my surroundings. My companions and I were sodden and soggy, huddled against slanting hail on the banks of the Jeinimeni River in Patagonia. Miserable? You bet. But there were also huge grins plastered across all of our faces. Exhilarated? Yes. Joyful? Plainly. Through rivulets of water cascading down rain-jacket hoods, I registered a few shell-shocked expressions. Everyone seemed to be chewing on the same question: How in the hell did I end up spending Christmas morning with frozen feet?
- How the Wonder of Nature Can Inspire Social Justice Activism ›
- 10 Million Acres of New National Parks Created in Chile ›
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a decree Monday to create five new national parks and expand three others, following a pledge made last year with Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the president and CEO of Tompkins Conservation, to dramatically expand national parkland in the South American country.
More than 10 million acres of new national parklands will be created in Chile, approximately three times the size of Yellowstone and Yosemite combined, or about the size of Switzerland. Bachelet said that would increase national parklands in Chile by 38.5 percent.
By James Blair
Local residents and environmentalists in Chile are enjoying a prolonged New Year's celebration, thanks to two major legal decisions that will protect the country's free-flowing rivers. Chile's justice system put a final stop to two controversial large hydroelectric dam developments in Chilean Patagonia: 1) Mediterráneo S.A.'s run-of-the-river project proposed on tributaries of the Puelo River near the city of Cochamó; and 2) Energía Austral SpA's three-dam power plant proposed on the Cuervo River in the Aysén region.
Trump is expected to speak at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City at 12:30 p.m. According to reports, he will announce the gutting of the 1.3 million acre Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and the slashing of the 1.9 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 50 percent. The move will be the largest elimination of protected areas in U.S. history.