Given that we are living during the Anthropocene extinction, the demise of salmon populations should come as no surprise. Yet understanding the direct causes of their dropping numbers defies simple explanation. Atlantic Salmon: Lost at Sea follows scientists in the field, river farmers, and other stakeholders with the aim of illustrating the interconnectedness of the problem. Where are salmon most vulnerable? In the rivers where they spawn? In the oceans where they grow? Is overfishing the only cause of their decline? Each of these questions gets a direct, clear answer that reminds us of the “systems” nature of the dilemma.
The cinematography in this film stands out, so much so that one might watch simply for its beauty. The directors spent a lot of time doing more than just orchestrating cinematic shots of nature; they carefully considered how the images carry and complement the plotline. The videos of salmon in their natural habitats speak as loudly as the narrator. We hear from salmon population experts, geneticists, river farmers, and others who care about the state of the salmon in our rivers. We learn about the work of philanthropists buying off fishing licenses. We even learn about salmons’ unique genetic adaptations. For example, scientists can identify exactly what river a salmon originated from using just a blood sample, since no two groups of river salmon share the same genetic code.
Despite the engaging nature of the film, Green Planet Films does not provide complementary curricular resources. Educators who find this work fascinating must consider personal ways in which to incorporate the film's content in the classroom. Asking students to watch the film might serve the interest of a small subset, but carefully planning lessons that build off particular scenes would enrich learning for all. Moreover, the film feels like it runs about fifteen minutes too long, and you will not find a free version of it online. Given the limited resources schools work with, a costly film or video that does not include classroom resources, however fascinating, will struggle to find an investor. Nevertheless, Green Planet Films has produced a variety of exciting documentaries worth examining and continues to find ways to connect with their viewers, and Atlantic Salmon does just that.