“The road to extinction is paved with good intentions.” This slight rewording of the popular aphorism strikes boldly across the poster, website and associated materials for Patagonia’s new documentary film, “Artifishal.” Although reworking a well-worn cliché, the statement is no less true, especially in the context of its usage here.
While the pun of the film’s title may appeal to even the most seasoned humorist, the conflict cross-examined in “Artifishal” is no laughing matter.
The Tribeca Film Festival debutant illuminates the adverse ecological and economic impact of fish hatcheries on salmon and humans alike, to say nothing of the delicate oceanic ecosystems that the fish traditionally call home.
In the film, documentarians Yvon Chouinard, Josh Murphy, Laura Wagner and Collin Kriner dive deep into what they term the “human arrogance” that spurred forth the prevailing belief that artificial, engineered solutions like hatcheries can make up for widespread coastal and riparian habitat destruction.
Instead, they outline in no uncertain terms how the hatchery industry further inhibits the recovery and rehabilitation of wild fish populations and further pollutes the ecosystems it supposedly seeks to help restore. These “good intentions,” rather than restoring dwindling wild populations, instead spend millions of dollars of public money on efforts that, ultimately, push species closer to endangerment and extinction.
The filmmakers shot “Artifishal” on location in a number of diverse habitats, including in hatcheries and rivers of California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and even journeyed to a stunning Norwegian fjord.
Through these explorations, “Artifishal” paints a picture that transcends its focal point, ultimately questioning humanity’s fragile relationship with the natural world and the responsibility all people have to reverse the damages society has wrought on the environment over the decades and centuries.
“Humans have always thought of themselves as superior to nature and it’s got us into a lot of trouble,” said Chouinard, executive producer of “Artifishal” and founder of Patagonia. “We think we can control nature; we can’t. Fish farms and open net pens only treat the symptoms and not the causes of the problem. If we value wild salmon, we need to do something now.”
That is exactly what the documentary hopes to achieve: a call to action. Without mincing words, the film clearly outlines the issues facing both marine life and humanity, proposes some potential solutions and puts it to the viewer to hold the right people accountable and get the job done.
“A life without wild nature and a life without these great, iconic species is an impoverished life. If we lose wild species, we’re going to lose ourselves,” Chouinard said.
This screening is presented to the public free of charge at the Wood River Community YMCA, 101 Saddle Road, Ketchum. The film begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24. For more information about the screening, visit woodriverymca.org. Learn more about the documentary and watch the trailer at patagonia.com/artifishal.