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Award-Winning Film “The Breach” Reveals Risks to Wild Salmon
Filmmaker and former fishing guide Mark Titus explores the key issues in engaging style

01/08/2015
Vital Choice is proud to support “The Breach” … a beautiful, deeply inspiring film about the threats facing wild Pacific salmon.

We could not agree more with the film's key message: In saving wild salmon we may just be saving ourselves.
 
Other fine documentaries – such as Salmon Confidential – address the risks posed by salmon farms.

But “The Breach” conveys the unique, irreplaceable value of these iconic fish ... in powerful, compelling fashion.

In fact, “The Breach” was named Best International Feature Documentary for 2014 at Ireland's Galway Film Fleadh (festival).

To learn more, and participate in discussions about the movie and the issues it raises, search the Web, Facebook, and Twitter for #eatwildsavewild, and visit the movie's website.

What's it all about?
Wild salmon have almost disappeared from the Atlantic Ocean, and from California, Oregon, and Washington.

This calamity was caused by salmon farming, hydroelectric dams, river pollution, and diversion of river waters for farming (see the sidebar “Our salmon-conservation archive”, below).

Slow progress has been made toward restoring some of these salmon “runs”, such as removal of dams on Washington State's Elwha River, and volunteer restoration of smaller salmon streams.

Most of the world's remaining wild salmon come from rivers in Alaska, Canada, or Kamchatka (Russia's huge Northeast Pacific island) … but Alaska hosts the biggest “runs”.

Mining (Alaska), salmon farming (Canada), poaching (Russia) and other threats could virtually eliminate wild salmon from the world.
Our salmon-conservation archive
We've long been concerned about threats to the world's waning wild salmon.

Our Vital Choices e-newsletter provides regular updates on these risks.

To view past reports, see the Wild Salmon Ecology, Aquaculture, and Mining & Seafood Sustainability sections of our news archive.

And for a quick overview of these fish, visit our About Wild Salmon page. 

As “The Breach” explains, loss of wild Alaskan salmon would starve their environment (including other wildlife) of an essential food and fertilizer, harm local people's health and pocketbooks, and deprive America and the world of a uniquely healthful, fully sustainable food.

Alarmed by steep drops in wild salmon populations, Seattle-based filmmaker and former fishing guide Mark Titus embarked on a journey to discover where the fish went … and what might bring them back.

Along the way, Titus unraveled a trail of human hubris, historical amnesia and potential tragedy looming in Alaska … all conspiring to end the most sustainable wild food left on the planet.

The film had its U.S. premier yesterday at California's Palm Springs International Film Festival, before an audience of 600.

As Titus told the The Desert Sun newspaper before the showing, “There's clearly a political and important aspect to the film that's very timely, but the more and more people saw it, the more they were really drawn to the poetry and magical nature of it all. As I explored this, I realized I wasn't alone in my passion about this animal.”

He and an expert (mostly volunteer) crew produced this moving, visually stunning film on a shoestring budget.

The story behind “The Breach”
Mark Titus spent his 20s as a fishing guide, when he also began working on the craft of screenwriting … finishing several screenplays while living in the wilderness.

He's since written, directed and produced brand films for clients like World Vision, The University of Washington, the United Nations, Amazon, Darigold, Microsoft, and Nordstrom.

The film was produced by Mark's friend, Susan LaSalle, who worked on the Academy Award winning documentary, “Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Your Environment.”

As he says, their collaborators constitute “a tremendous, generous team of cinematographers, editors, graphic artists, social media gurus, composers, interns, chefs, family, friends and salmon lovers of all shapes and sizes work for the love of the project over the last year. That means for free.”

Here's how Titus described the genesis of “The Breach”:

I was on a plane, heading to a commercial shoot when I ran across a passage in a book I was reading about wild salmon. 

It described the construction of a dam in 1913 on the Elwha River in Washington State that effectively wiped out a race of giant King Salmon. 100+ pounders. Fish so big, the Lower Elwha Klallam People would think twice before entering the river for fear of getting smashed between them.

After the dam was built, the salmon were permanently blocked from their spawning grounds high in the Olympic Mountains. Despite this, these giants would come back to the base of the dam, year after year, slamming their bodies into the concrete, trying to get upriver.

It brought to mind the indelible battle cry in Shakespeare's Henry V: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more …”

And the light switch clicked: “Those dams are scheduled to be breached in September (2011), and I know a man, Russ Busch, who spent 40 years working to get those dams removed. He's sick with cancer but may just get to see his life's work realized. I have to start filming. Right now.”

And that's just what happened. I filmed my first interview with Russ a week later. And as these things happen, the story grew – all on its own.

Certainly Russ and the removal of those dams on the Elwha remain at the center of hope for wild salmon recovery.

But as I looked into it further, doors started swinging open of their own accord and I realized there are other potent stories of hope – as well as several stories of potential disaster to wild salmon runs if nothing is done about them.

I realized the film was not only about the breaching of those dams, but of a much larger breach of contract between human beings and nature – specifically wild salmon – and if we want to have a shot at repairing things to sustain future generations we'd better pay attention … right now.

So, onward “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”
 
– Mark Titus