Artifishal: Documentary reveals the threat to wild fish by fish farms and fish hatcheries

Artifishal is a documentary film that reveals the impact of humans on wild salmon and sea trout, and the destruction of natural habitats caused by fish farms and fish hatcheries.

The documentary, from outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, traces the impact of fish hatcheries and fish farms – industries which hinders wild fish recovery, pollutes rivers and contributes to the problem it claims to solve.

Artifishal highlights the salmon farming industry in northern European countries such as Iceland, Norway, Scotland and Ireland where fish farming is growing at rapid rates.

Farmed fish are domesticated and raised by humans to thrive in high-density aquatic feedlots, often in public marine waters, where they are raised to market size and harvested for consumption. They threaten wild fish with parasites, diseases (and the pesticides used to control them), and through competition and interbreeding during frequent escapes.

The documentary also takes a look inside fish hatcheries in California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho – where salmon spawned and raised by humans in artificial habitats, are churned out in massive quantities. In such a controlled environment as fish hatcheries, fish are selected for domesticated traits, then released into the wild.

Hatchery fish are weaker and less able to survive in the natural environment or adapt to changing conditions. Fish hatchery fish threaten wild fish through increased predation and competition for food and habitat during mass releases, and through interbreeding on the spawning grounds, where they pass maladapted genes to the wild population.

In the last 40 years, the population of Atlantic Salmon has dropped from 10 million to three million and if their habitat is not protected, they could soon become an endangered species.

Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia founder and executive producer of Artifishal, said: “Humans have always thought of themselves as superior to nature and it’s got us into a lot of trouble. We think we can control nature; we can’t. If we value wild salmon, we need to do something now. A life without wild nature and a life without these great, iconic species is an impoverished life. If we lose all wild species, we’re going to lose ourselves.”

The Artifishal website, which also serves as a resource for further information on the issues raised in the documentary, makes recommendations for consumers of fish. These include people should buy wild salmon from well-managed, hatchery-free fisheries; don’t buy Atlantic salmon or steelhead; go lower on the food chain with smaller fish, including herring, anchovies and smelt; and don’t eat open-ocean fish such as
swordfish, bluefin tuna, Chilean seabass and other large fish at the top of the food chain which are vulnerable to overfishing and can accumulate high levels of toxic chemicals.

For screenings, visit the Patagonia website 


Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at




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