To The Journey's End
Possibly for the first time, the life-long struggle of the Atlantic salmon has been documented on film from the North East of Scotland.
Concluding a 7-year, self-funded project, supported by the Boards and Trusts of the rivers of the North East of Scotland, Aberdeenshire-based filmmaker Bernard Martin launched To The Journey’s End at Macduff Marine Aquarium on Thursday 13th April 2017. Intended as an educational resource, it is hoped that schools and colleges across the North East will use the film as a valuable learning tool to inspire local students to think about the conservation of the species.
Locally-filmed, purpose-shot footage follows them as they travel through the seasons until they finally make it to the spawning grounds where they themselves hatched many years earlier – they finally reach the end of their exhausting 3,000-mile journey. Having not fed or drank since they entered the river from the sea almost a year previous, for most, this is the end of their lives. After spawning, viewers witness the hatching of eggs the following spring and watch the development of baby salmon until they return to the sea as smolts years later.
This film, featuring rarely-seen footage from North East Scotland, allows viewers to follow the fascinating life-cycle of the Atlantic salmon, fraught with danger. What’s more, the viewer will come to appreciate how endangered Atlantic salmon really are, and the challenges they face throughout their struggle for survival in the modern world.
By painting a poignant picture of the arduous journey of the Atlantic salmon, this film, perhaps most importantly, will inspire determination to help save this magnificent species; a native and natural symbol of Scotland.
On the upcoming launch of his film, Bernard said: “Year after year we were disappointed not to film the spawning sequence - heavy rains, lack of fish, being in the wrong place at the right time and equipment failing at the critical moment, all meant another year’s filming. Without the spawning sequence there was no film at all. What was really uplifting was that the people who work on and look after our rivers never gave up on me. The quality of the rivers of the North East is down to their hard work and management. Macduff Marine Aquarium is a great venue for the premier screening of my film, which will be used for the aquarium’s public and school education programmes.”
A Film by Bernard Martin – Project Update
It has been three years since the completion of my last film about the life cycle of the Atlantic Salmon. It has been picked up and used as an educational resource in many countries around the world from North America to Spain, France and countries in Asia, with over 700,000 views on YouTube. It’s been a reaction I could never have hoped for. Many thanks to everybody who helped and kept their patience with me over such a long production period.
If you have not seen the film, it can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65EfIjADGSc
Over many years I have spent time along the coast observing and filming seabirds here in Aberdeenshire. I am no expert, but I seem to remember many more birds and a lot more noise at Bullers of Buchan in years gone by. So, I decided to research and make this my next film. Like the Salmon film this will be a free to use teaching resource for any individual or organisation who would wish to use it. Once again, this film will be completely self-funded.
Living on the edge
The food base for this mixed population of seabirds around our North Sea coasts basically comes down to sand eels. The term actually covers a whole load of small fish species all in the Sand Lance family. As we are seeing, with warming seas the plankton the sand eels and their fry depend on is moving north, reducing the sand eel population and of course leaving smaller populations of sand eels to feed the seabirds chicks.
There is a greater threat to the sand eels though, industrial over-fishing mostly by Denmark, especially in the North Sea area. This is having a devastating effect on the sand eel population and therefore seabirds of all species. In the past Denmark alone has taken around 450,000 tons of sand eels in a year. The collapse of the Shetland seabird population around 2010 was also partly linked to Shetland’s own sand eel fishery. The fish are harvested for fish oil supplements, fertiliser and feed for fish farms.
As I mentioned in the introduction, I have been filming seabirds along the coast for some years and I have quite a large stock of footage already, this is all high definition. I started filming the arrival of seabirds again in 2019 in 4K resolution. We managed to acquire really nice mating sequences among mostly Auks and some sequences of birds on eggs. I had hoped to follow the hatching and continue acquiring sequences through to fledging, and the leap of faith that Razorbills and Guillemot chicks take from the cliff edge. Unfortunately, a bad knee injury prevented any further filming.
With the onset of the 2020 breeding season I was set to start over, but with the current worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, no filming will take place until such time as the government lifts restrictions. This potentially means that no filming will happen until the 2021 breeding season.
I hope that the time in between will enable more substantial research and will allow me to work with conservation groups such as the RSPB and the Scottish Seabird Centre, Greenpeace, Wildlife trusts, universities and other groups involved in this field.
A number of locations were identified in pre-production planning and included:
· Bullers of Buchan, Aberdeenshire
· Troup Head, Aberdeenshire
· Coastal areas of the Shetland Isles
· Isle of May in the Firth of Forth
The film will be led by a narrator and will show the breeding cycles of various bird species along our coast from mating, to hatching chicks, Satellite animation imagery will identify the different locations used during the film. We will show the challenges faced by the bird population trying to raise their young, from predation of their chicks by other birds and the fierce weather systems that the North Sea can throw at them.
We will show how they depend on sand eels and other species of fish for the survival of their chicks. As they dive into the sea. We will show underwater footage of sand eels as they shoal. The voice-over will also explain that many species of fish also depend on sand eels for their own survival.
We will show images of microscopic plankton and the voice-over will state that with the seas warming the food supply that sand eels and their fry depend on for their survival is moving north.
The voice-over will go on to explain, with either film or graphics, the amount of industrial fishing of sand eels every year by countries such as Demark.
Interviews throughout with key speakers will emphasise the issues faced not just by seabirds but aquatic species as well. Sand eels sustain many ocean creatures, dolphins and seals depend on them in the spring. Mackerel migrate to the North Sea just to feed on them.
Action must be taken soon to prevent a catastrophic crash in seabird numbers. To lose species to global warming is one thing, but to lose many species to mass overfishing of a species that the population will not even eat is beyond tragedy.
Living On The Edge