“On the front” on France 5 with Hugo Clément, between fishing and agribusiness, the damnation of salmon


At the table and on the screen, he returns regularly as the end of the year feasts approach. Farmed salmon remains a safe bet despite its artificial-colored flesh, its cocktail of antibiotics and pesticides intended to relieve it from the sea lice infestations that plague it. His captivity of several tens of thousands of congeners per cage gradually distances him from his cousin, the wild salmon, a powerful marathoner capable of embarking on a risky odyssey to Greenland before returning to the waters that have him. seen being born, that of a French river for example. In both cases, the animal is likely to end up like an ordinary paving stone on a plate.

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The advantage, with the documentaries which look at the food of the developed countries, is that the spectator has a good chance of traveling a lot, the routes of the world agribusiness being little penetrable, but always rich in kilometers. Hugo Clément and his team went to look for edifying images in Scottish lochs, guided by Don Staniford aboard his kayak. This activist has denounced for twenty years the appalling breeding conditions apparently tolerated in the United Kingdom. “In these cages, we find plastic pollution, pieces of rope, gasoline stains, dead fish, shit everywhere…”, sums up a former employee of a fish farm in front of his former workplace.

“Industrial fishing”

The food is brought in the form of bags of pellets by a container ship of the Norwegian firm Mowi – one of the world giants in the sector and one of the engines of the boom in this industry in Scotland. Even crowded, the salmon is a predator that swallows a dose of soy and a quantity of mackerel, herring, sardinella from Peru or West Africa. This “industrial fishing” is reduced to flour and oil, often transformed in Chinese or Russian factories directly installed on the Senegalese or Mauritanian coasts. As a result, the women of Joal who smoked these small fish no longer have any resources and their clients lack protein.

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Return to France, near Bayonne, where a handful of fishermen round up the last wild Atlantic salmon daring enough to try to spawn in the Adour. Despite the determination of nature defenders, these professionals persist in setting their nets in the mouth of a river that the public authorities nevertheless continue to provide upstream fish passes.

History, undoubtedly, to end on more positive bucolic images, the documentary takes us to slide by canoe in the beautiful gorges of the Allier. With a team of volunteers, Hugo Clément releases several hundred thousand salmon fry there. Once adults, the survivors will one day return to the river after having conquered the rise of the Loire. This year, barely two hundred of these super athletes were counted. The fry come from the national conservatory of wild salmon located in Chanteuges (Haute-Loire).

About thirty kilometers away, EDF undertook to open one of its hydroelectric dams, that of Poutès sur l’Allier, three months a year, in order to let the salmon pass. The energy company is proud of this pilot project of nearly 20 million euros admired in Europe. The film does not say that one of its subsidiaries is preparing to build a new hydroelectric power station downstream, on the Allier, in Vichy.

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On the Front / The Truth About Salmon, documentary by Hugo Clément (Fr. 50 minutes) France 5

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