Oct 12, 2008

North to Nelson

Regrettably, my time in the small fishing village of Kaikoura eventually came to an end. Duty called and new shoots beckoned me northwards towards Nelson and the Marlborough Sounds at the tip of the south island. As I passed snow-flecked mountaintops and steel-grey rivers frantically dumping their glacier-melt into the deep coastal waters of the Chatham Rise and Bounty Trough, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of sadness. Something about Kaikoura's constant weather, the slow pace of life, and the ocean air reminded me of my hometown Carlsbad, back in San Diego. But Kaikoura was already rapidly receding into the distance and I slowly turned my thoughts northward.

Before this gloomy spell could overtake me and blossom into homesickness I emerged out of the verdant green winery region of Blenheim and burst onto the Marlborough Sounds. And what a sight it was! With crystalline blue waters, golden sand beaches, bright skies, and friendly people, Nelson was a cinematic jewel. Not to be caught with idle feet, I immediately proceeded into downtown Nelson and met up with my aquaculture contact to talk about the operations based in Nelson. Salmon, pacific oysters, and the world-renowed greenshell mussel were some of the main exports. Needless to say we had a long chat about sustainability, aquaculture, and what it meant for the future of fishing around the globe. In the end I told them that I was most interested in documenting and displaying what sustainability actually looked like in practice. I imagine for most of you, myself included, sustainable fisheries seems a murky and sometimes fishy sounding proposal. I mean, what does sustainability actually look like in action? Some of my following questions related to environmental impacts, wild stock assessments, regulations, health inspections, the "organic-ness" of the product, handling, processing, etc. In the end it was important that I got a good grasp on how "sustainable" these fisheries were before I shot any footage.

After the meeting we set up a few shoots for the coming week. I was pleasantly surprised that the aquaculture operations didn't use water pesticides or antibiotics and secondly, each mussel, oyster, and salmon was handled individually as it came out of the pens. In fact, they said that to farm mussels all they did was set up ropes anchored to the bottom of the seabed and the mussels grew themselves, content in the clean and warm waters of the Marlborough Sounds. Of course a gross simplification of the process, it was still a miracle that pollution was one of their only main concerns, and a small one at that.

(above are screen-shots from my doco. footage)

Phewww! It was a lot to take in and even more to ponder. Yet I found my thoughts lingering over that conversation later the same evening as I sat atop a hill overlooking Nelson (a hill which was the geographic center of New Zealand in fact). I couldn't help but wonder, what did this mean for my documentary and what role would aquaculture play in 21st century ocean management?

Oct 2, 2008

Winter Comes to An End

Well I'm happy to say that winter finally came to an end. August and September brought much rain and gloomy days but now that October is here the weather has changed for the better. People are crawling out of their homes to witness miraculously clear days and longer hours of sunshine. It has been particularly exciting for me as this seasonal change has given me much more time to get outside for film and photograph opportunities.

(Portobello Sunrise, Otago Peninsula)

Currently I'm in Kaikoura, two hours north of Christchurch at the Kaikoura Seafest, an annual festival which celebrates the sea's bounty. Nearly 6,000 people converge on the tiny town for a two day event featuring music and much seafood. This Seafest is particularly interesting because it sources most of its seafood from the local sustainable industry and it openly promotes itself as a "premiere celebration of the abundance of the oceans and all it represents." The spirit of the festival is a beacon of local Kiwis' goodwill and respect for the ocean and its inhabitants, a message which I hope to convey in my documentary.

Yesterday I spent a few hours filming the set-up. It took nearly all day for the central tent, the so-called "Big-Top" to go up as well as the surrounding vendor stalls. Tonight is the pre-event, a four hour "Big Bash" before the actual Seafest begins tomorrow. I'm looking forward to filming a number of seafood cooking presentations and interviewing some of the many patrons who are attending the festival. During my initial filming, I met two local Paua fishermen, Jim and Kev who dive for large hand-sized Paua shells which they then throw on the bbq, apparently the taste is exquisite. They are excited to take me out on their boat and Jim, a character in his own right, said "Once you have Paua you'll never eat another cow again." What a very true and relevant quote.

(On the road to Gillespie Beach)

While it is wonderful that Jim loves seafood, his statement also sheds light on a growing issue worldwide and one at the heart of sustainability and my documentary. People are coming to realize that seafood is not only better for you but leaves a smaller carbon footprint than say beef or pork does. And while this realization is good, our exorbitant consumption of seafood is putting an innapropriate amount of stress of fish stocks and as a result threatening the very protein source that we have recently become so fond of. As a result, it is difficult as a filmmaker to balance the dualistic nature of an event like the Kaikoura Seafest. One on hand you have an event that represents seafood gluttony and on the other it is a celebration which opens peoples' eyes to both the quality of fish meat and the importance of saving some for future generations. The key is finding an equilibrium between the two, which I think is a notion at the very heart of sustainability.
(Moeraki Lighthouse on Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula)