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Sara Pozonsky wanted to make a documentary to educate and alert Alaskans about the dangers of fish farms.
Last weekend was the annual Anchorage Film Festival. Feature length films, shorts, animations and documentaries from around the globe starred at the event—including several movies specific to Alaska. KDLG’s Thea Card saw one of these Alaskan movies and spoke to its creator.
Sara Pozonsky is from Newhalen and is very proud to be an Alaskan—that’s clear from the moment you meet her in the documentary “A Fishy Tale.” Growing up she spent her summers on her dad’s boat in Bristol Bay. Nowadays, Pozonsky is the co-owner of Wild Alaska Salmon Company and a wild salmon activist.
However, activism is new to her. The story goes that Pozonsky ordered wild Alaskan salmon at a restaurant, or at least that’s what the menu said it was. She was so disgusted by the dish that was brought to her table and infuriated by the chef who kept insisting it wasn’t farmed fish, she eventually channeled that anger and frustration in an awareness project.
“I was really frustrated with the lack of education and trying to figure out what’s the best way to get our message out. And the movie just seemed like a great way to get it out to a larger audience.”
“A Fishy Tale” takes an in-depth look at the harms that are associated with farmed fish. Although fish farms are illegal in Alaska, there’s nothing stopping companies from setting up in other states, other countries and even in federal waters near Alaska. That’s the real issue, Pozonsky says. Farmed fish are saturated with chemicals that is spreading to wild fish.
“In their feed and then also they spray them down too with a chemical called slice to get rid of slice once a year. But mainly it’s through their fish feed.”
The concern then is the waste these chemically enhanced fish produce ruins the waters and sea beds in which they’re kept. And it’s not like the chemicals disappear when the fish do—once those chemicals are in the water, they move around the globe.
“Any fish that are around the fish farm, eventually it’s going to hit wherever the water flows, you’re going to see some fallout from that. But I would just say mainly to the fishermen in Bristol Bay, we already are wondering where our Kind Salmon are, we’re already wondering what’s happening to our fish. We can’t possibly stand for the federal government putting in fish farms because they believe it’s a more productive way of mass producing fish.”
Pozonsky submitted “A Fish Tale” to the Anchorage Film Festival because the movie was created with Alaskans in mind. She says she hopes the festival will get the word out about fish farms.
“I’m just hoping that people will spread it to their friends. That they’ll say to their friends ‘hey there’s this film on Youtube, we need to be careful, we need to be aware.’”
“A Fishy Tale” even got the attention of Governor Bill Walker who attended the premier. Pozonsky was able to steal a quick moment with the newly elected governor.
“But what he said to me was that he is very concerned about our fisheries and he is. He knows there are some changes that need to be made.”
A jellyfish invasion in the Western Isles has wiped out nearly 300,000 young salmon worth around £1m.
Thousands of tiny mauve stinger jellyfish squeezed through protective nets at the Loch Duart fish farm on Loch Maddy.
Some injured salmon survived the attack at the North Uist fish farm on November 19, only to be killed by stormy weather.
Nick Joy, managing director of Loch Duart, said it was a “terrible blow” but added that the company’s future is not in jeopardy.
He said: “We have seen these jellyfish before but not in such large numbers and in each case, though the fish have been disturbed, they have survived the encounter.
“The fish looked very distressed and were shoaling poorly and slowly. It was also clear that some had died though at this stage, not a significant number.
“My immediate view was that though the fish had been sorely tried, the majority of them would have survived as long as the weather gave them some peace to rest.”
Extreme weather which hit the Western Isles in late November caused further damage to Loch Duart’s stocks.
Mr Joy said: “The poor fish unable to swim well were trapped against the net and a very significant number died. We have now removed almost all of the dead fish and only about half remain.
“Salmon farming is a hard, dangerous job and in our company it requires the highest level of empathy with the fish that we grow.”
The same species of jellyfish decimated Northern Ireland's only salmon farm in 2007. More than 100,000 fish worth around £1m were destroyed at the farm near Glenarm Bay.
In October last year, nearly half the salmon at a sea farm in County Mayo in Ireland were wiped out when 20,000 fish were killed in a jellyfish attack.
In 2002, thousands of solmaris jellyfish killed one million salmon at fish farms in the Western Isles. Fish valued around £3m were destroyed in sea lochs at Leurbost, Gravir and Loch Erisort off Lewis.