Salmon Wars Are Just Getting Started

Film review by Mark Hume

Salmon Wars: The fight over salmon farming in the Bay of Fundy, in Nova Scotia, is a familiar one. Big industry moves in and with the support of a compliant government starts to expand, even as environmental damage – and public opposition – mounts.

How and why does this happen?

Click on the picture above to see the documentary

That is the fundamental question that writer, Silver Donald Cameron, seeks to answer in his latest documentary, ‘Salmon Wars.’

He doesn’t come up with a definitive answer. The confounding role of government, as it cozies up to an increasingly unpopular industry, remains something of a mystery, even after 75 minutes of journalistic probing.

But one thing that does become clear in this penetrating look at aquaculture, is that in its current form, it doesn’t fit in any ocean where there are wild salmon.

Mr. Cameron’s film thoroughly examines the industry’s operations on the coast of Nova Scotia, documenting the problems with pollution, disease, sea lice and the genetic dilution caused by escapees.

In the end he comes to the damming conclusion that raising Atlantic salmon in open ocean net pens is at best “a primitive method of food production.”

And it is one that clearly threatens the environment.

Mr. Cameron interviews fishermen who have seen entire bays of lobsters killed when chemicals used in farms drifted out from net pens.

He interviews wild salmon biologists about the impact escaped, domestic salmon have on rivers.

And he has footage that shows the deep muck that settles on the ocean floor for several kilometers around net pen sites.

He gives industry and government representatives their fair shot at explaining why the industry should be allowed to expand. But in the end their best arguments ring hollow.

The fish farming industry is about maximizing profit and minimizing responsibility. And it has an eager supporter in government, which Mr. Cameron accuses of suffering from “a failure of accounting and critical thinking.”

He accuses the salmon farming industry of being “grasping, reckless, sly and sometimes criminal.”

Tough words, and hard to ignore, when they come from such a highly respected author, speaker and commentator.

The film, Salmon Wars, is a solid piece of work that explores in detail the issues surrounding fish farms, and lays out the case against the industry. It is a must watch for anyone who cares about wild salmon – on either coast.

The documentary, a special project of The Green Interview, is free for downloading at http://www.salmonwars.com

And unlike many reports on salmon farming, this one concludes on a positive note, as Mr. Cameron describes the grassroots opposition that has grown in Nova Scotia, to include more than 100 groups that are now dedicated to stopping the aquaculture industry from expanding in the ocean environment. Their long term objective is to get fish farms out of the sea.

If they succeed, others will follow.

“This is what democracy looks like,” says Mr. Cameron near the end of the film, as he stands in a crowded,energized hall, where the opponents of salmon farming are holding a meeting.

The message is clear. When governments align with industry against the best interests of the public, then people have no choice but to get organized and to fight back.

The Salmon Wars, he is clearly saying, are just getting started.