Fish Wars

2019, Environment  -   9 Comments
8.60
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Ratings: 8.60/10 from 30 users.

The Mekong Delta in Vietnam is home to the world's most popular fish. Pangasius (also known as dory or catfish), drives a multi-billion dollar export industry. It's cheap and convenient to harvest, and its mass production has provided a livelihood for a record number of Vietnamese citizens. But that same process has also raised dire concerns among public health officials. The documentary Fish Wars attempts to uncover the veracity of these claims.

Food safety advocates claim that imported catfish from Asia are vulnerable to deeply polluted waters containing cancer-causing agents, and lax breeding and safety regulations by an overstressed and badly trained work force. With over 220,000 tons of pollution flooding its waters on an annual basis, the Mekong Delta region has been the subject of a great deal of these criticisms and concerns.

For their part, the Asian fish industry claims that there's no evidence that suggests these contaminants have made their way into the fish. The water might not be safe to drink, but it could be the ideal environment to grow nutrient-rich seafood.

The central thesis of the film is whether or not we can trust the systems that are in place to safeguard our health. To that end, the filmmakers visit the largest production factory in Vietnam to observe the safety precautions that have been set in place. The process appears to involve an arduous parade of sanitation, testing and other strict regulatory practices. Regardless, food scientists are concerned with the volume of antibiotics and hormones that are being pumped into the fish.

Pangasius advocates claim the smear campaign has originated from competition who are desperate to squash a cheaply produced and highly profitable product. Some go further to criticize the role that racism might play in the attempts to sabotage Vietnam's thriving fishing industry.

What ensues throughout the course of the film is a back-and-forth pro-and-con approach to a surprisingly complicated issue. In order to meet rising consumer demand, are these villages failing to meet the necessary global safety measures? Are these isolated incidents or systemic failures?

Fish Wars is an interesting exploration of whether these concerns for public safety are merely empty posturing and fear mongering, or if there is truly something fishy going on.

Directed by: Allie Wharf

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9 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Don

    As a fish breeder myself, not on an industrial level, this documentary is kind of odd..
    1; The water for the fish is of little importance, Pangasius is a very hardy fish and can survive and thrive in all kinds of water. Even that of very poor quality.
    But the quality of that water finds its way into the quality of the meat of the fish.
    2; The water the fish grows in is then poured back into the river. Which at this point is highly polluted. Water plants would thrive, but if they keep adding anti-biotics and other chemicals you are just asking for trouble.

  2. UrbanDweller

    Catfish, as it's called in America, are the garage trucks of the waters because they, like vultures, feed on the waste...they were meant to keep the waters clean. Unfortunately, the waste poured into our water streams are larger than they can keep-up with. Besides that, do you want to eat waste eaters? Sadly, many of our waters, worldwide, are contaminated. Go vegan. Deny ourselves today so future generations can enjoy fish "tomorrow." A future that better cares for the ecosystem as a whole.

  3. Jackal

    The solution is to become a true vegetarian. Raise your own food using only organic methods. Stay completely away from commercially produced foods.

    1. Professional Amateur

      You can grow perfectly organic meat too... same as with the plants. No need to become vegan or vegetarian to have a clean food. By the way, plants can easily be polluted, absolutely same as animals.

  4. Parrent’s

    The dude with the red hair and beard is so delusional and clearly only cares about making money. These fish arms are incredibly bad for the environment and the health of humans eating the farmed fish. Industry like this is only contributing to the sickness in humans and our planet!

  5. Norman McKinnon

    The Mekong River does not run thru North Vietnam. It only runs thru the Mekong Delta, in South Vietnam. Keep in mind that about 20 million Chinese, 8 million Lao, 15 million Thai, 5 million Cambodians & 10 million Vietnamese are defecating into the Mekong Watershed every day. Also a huge amount of Agricultural Pesticides end up in the Mekong Watershed.

  6. Norman McKinnon

    I lived in Thailand for 2-4 months a year for 4 years. The Fish, Prawn & Squid farms are in rural areas, in the southern parts of the country; usually near the coasts.
    All rural areas in Thailand have septic fields. During the rainy season from June to October, much of the low lying areas flood; washing out the Septic fields.
    Vietnam is much more densely populated than Thailand. I can't imaging the septic systems are much different.
    Amazingly, I seldom got sick in Thailand, Vietnam , Laos & Cambodia; even though I frequently are at street side stalls & carts.

  7. Mark

    This will never be a very popular video. Why? Because it is not sensationalist. On the contrary, it is a balanced and even-handed documentary that shows the nexus of various issues, including political beliefs regarding the scale of production, fraud, the profit motive, the issue of buying local versus imported, the use of chemicals, pollution and others. One thing it also shows is, as one learns more and more the older one gets, "you get what you pay for."

  8. Gunther

    If the water is not safe to drink due to all the pollutants in the Mekong River and the Delta, then what makes you think it is safe to eat the fish that live in the river and the Delta?