Of Fish Or Foe

Of Fish Or Foe is a documentary about one of the last coastal salmon netting fishing family businesses running in Scotland, and the pressure that is brought to bear on them over the course of a year to put them out of business. The pressure comes from 2 groups, a branch of hunt sabs called Sea Shepherd and the angling interests board.

This is a culture clash film about people who want to carry on the family business that they’ve been raised and fed with for generations, and the animal rights activists who will stop at nothing to stop the death of any wildlife at their hands. There is not a clear side to come down on, both perspectives are given time and the audience is very much left to decide what they think.

The central conflict is very much a war of attrition. There can be no compromise between their two positions without it meaning the end of one of them. This leads both groups to view the other as the devil incarnate. The fishermen view the sabs as idle, childish, spoiled, ignorant, crunchy students. The sabs view the fishermen as slathering psychopaths, foaming at the mouth for the extermination of innocent animals. It leads to a lot of comic scenes where they both stand holding cameras 2 inches from each others face, screaming, “You’re assaulting me! You’re assaulting me!” because their breath is disturbing the others hair. You just think, bunch of fucking weans.

There’s no attempt to see things from each others perspective or give respect to the fact that others might not think like you or have your priorities. Any compromise to make the fishing less detrimental to wildlife, but still continue, would destroy the fishermen’s bottom line, and would violate the principles of the sabs that every animal has a right to its own life.

The scales are finally tipped when the angling lobbyists take against the netters, saying their netting at the coast is preventing salmon from entering the inland rivers in sufficient numbers. Weirdly, they are the biggest allies to the sabs, despite the fact the anglers catch many more salmon that the netters do.

It is a weird film, neither side is particularly likeable. But it definitely seems that times are changing, priorities are changing, and the winds of support are blowing against the fishermen.