Last week I was at a screening of the movie ‘artifishal’. This film is a Patagonia production, and it's great to see such company involved in sustainability... I will try not to give you too many spoilers and truly recommend that you go and watch it because it portrays some issues that are rarely considered. The film made me really think about all of the things that we do in name of sustainability.. are they really sustainable ?
The issue is that we can rarely truly predict the effects of our actions because ecosystems are made of much more than simple , linear , chain reactions .
Many systems have taken thousands, millions year to get to their evolutionary point and we often come in with our ‘immediate’ solutions that can , in our heads, make us able to continue our lifestyles as they are while maintaining the natural state, but in reality can cause big changes at a much faster rate than evolution.
What I am saying is that we start with good intentions but we are still often stuck in this anthropocentric view where we will be able to solve everything. But as humans we tend to solve things by simplifying the complexity, which we are learning is not always a good idea.
Now, the film looked specifically into the world of salmon fishing, aquaculture and the idea of ‘rewilding’ or better ‘restocking’ of ‘natural’ populations to allow fishing to continue. The film was scientifically sound and interesting and I have learnt a lot of new things about salmon. Firstly, I didn’t know that what we commonly call salmon is a very genetically diverse group of species , and that this is because of the variety of streams and rivers that they had to adapt to. Think about it - you might have to have different body shapes if you live in a strong current stream , if you have to jump up a very high waterfall or if you are in very calm but maybe shallow water.. this high genetic diversity make this species also vulnerable to genetic changes that can arise when you repopulate a stream with ‘hatchery grown’ individuals. Moreover , hatchery grown might not be as ‘tough’ in general and as resistant to natural adversities including illnesses as the natural populations !
Worse , think about aquaculture . The risk of cages opening can be quite high and the individuals inside the cages are often very different to the ones in the surrounding body of water . The caged ones might be used to ‘feeding times’, be more prone to infections and even worse, because sometimes for aquaculture completely different species are cultured in non-native waters, so they might act as invaders if they escape
In the film some studies are introduced where they demonstrated that actually the salmon populations would return to equilibrium and grow in numbers much better if some of the anthropogenic influences were to be removed from the rivers (e.g. dams , polluting industries ..), which are their natural spawning habitats, rather than relying on this human ‘engineered’ solution of artificial breeding.. which turns out is increasing losses!
But the solution of ‘removing impacts’ would likely be seen as an attack by some industries which have big ‘interest’, and so it will not ‘make everyone happy’... but I would like to leave you thinking about this : is the apparently better solution (the one that would make ‘everyone happy’) actually the best solution for nature in the long term? Should we stop to think about making the most of nature and just start making what’s better for it?
A link to the film and to some fishy knowledge here https://www.patagonia.com/artifishal.html
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