The salmon run

Yes, well, what do you do on a wet afternoon – go and see Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, of course.  It’s the story of a fisheries expert hired to help a young, prematurely wise sheik fulfil his dream of creating a salmon run in the Yemen through harnessing water in a dam and stocking the river with fish airlifted from British fish farms.  It has comedy, romance, a bit of thrill, scenery, all the feel good stuff and a rather nebulous inspirational message that slithered around a bit but was basically:  have faith and it will all come right.  Just the job, and we all came out feeling sunny. 

The thing I wondered about was, do farmed salmon actually know about swimming upstream – the ‘run’?  I thought of other animals raised in captivity or domestically which don’t seem to have the same instincts of their wild counterparts. Hunting and foraging, finding safe resting places and so on are at least partly copied from animal parents and elders. 

In the film, the salmon are released and start to go disappointingly and lazily downstream.  Then one turns round with a massive flick of its body.  Then another and in seconds all of them are leaping against the current.  Must be artistic licence, I thought, but a Google search confirmed that farmed salmon do actually swim back upstream to their hatching grounds.  In fact, you may be sad to learn that some Alaskan ‘wild’ salmon apparently begins as farmed young which are then released into the wild in what is known as ‘ocean ranching’.  They return to their hatching grounds to be caught by fishermen.

So, in time-honoured sermon illustration mode, what is the lesson?  Two possibilities here:  you could say that even those who have been safe and cosseted (in a family, or a church) can be trusted to find a wild and adventurous spirit and swim against the current when challenged.  Or you could say that however much you try to set someone free, they will return to their roots and stay true to type.

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