Thursday, November 13, 2008

Don River Video Critiqued

"Save the Don River" by Mike Music

Recently I have created some videos to highlight issues and events in the Don Valley. For example, my videos from the Pottery Road weir illustrate the influence of rainstorms on water levels. Other videos show benthic invertebrate testing and wetland planting events.

There are a few other videos about the Don and unfortunately they are not very high quality. A case in point is one called "Save the Don River" which I came across on YouTube recently. It's about 7 minutes long and comes in three parts.

The first part which lasts 2:30 minutes is shot just south of the Queen St. East bridge. Several people are interviewed while looking at a pile of debris that has collected up against a concrete pillar that supports an on ramp for the Gardiner expressway. The people are asked for their opinion about the Don River while the videographer points to the debris pile. The responses are typical - they think the river is dirty and should be cleaned up. They think the debris is a mess and the city should do something about it.

There are two points I want to make. First, while the debris looks messy there is no real point in cleaning it up since the next big storm will dislodge it and send it down to the Keating Channel where it is trapped and scooped out of the water. Secondly, it is important to be aware of people's opinions about the Don River. It seems from this small sampling of the public that people are not aware of the issues concerning pollution on the Don and we still have a ways to go to educate people about these issues.

The second and third parts were taken somewhere in the east Don between the forks of the Don and Lawrence Ave. East. This is the Charles Sauriol Conservation Preserve and sports some areas that are still fairly natural. The second part lasting 2:30 minutes shows one or two salmon swimming in the river. The tagline erroneously states that they are spawning. In fact the salmon are non-native Pacific salmon that are released as fry in rivers (including the Don) around Lake Ontario by the Ministry of Natural Resources. This is done to support the sports fishing industry. The fish live for about five years in the lake, then following some instinctual drive they return to swim up these rivers. Unfortunately the habitat they require doesn't exist in the Don. They required shallow, cold water gravel beds to spawn. Even if they did find it, the eggs would be washed away as the Don regularly floods too heavily for them to survive.

The third part (about 2 minutes) shows white-tailed deer tracks in the riverbank mud as well as a passable shot of a deer feeding in a meadow. I don't have a problem with this part. There are also some nice scenic shots of trees and flowers.

Mr. Music seems to be well intentioned, albeit somewhat misinformed. I do commend him for creating this video but I am sure that someone can do better. The Task Force to Bring Back the Don is investigating the feasibility of running a video contest on the Don River. This might be a project for its 20th anniversary which happens next year.


Anonymous said...

The video, Save the Don, was made to raise awareness. While your critique does help this cause it also was done by someone that is “misinformed”. It is unfortunate that you have a “problem” with parts of the video. Perhaps a change of attitude could brighten your outlook.
The pile of debris in the first part of the video has been there all summer (one of the wettest on record), evidence that it will not be washed away in the next rainfall. The trapping and scooping at the Keating Channel is a feeble effort at best by the city to manage waste that collects in the river.
The “typical” responses of people passing by are very correct and reflect peoples’ view of the condition of the river. Videos like these can only lead them to learn more about deeper problems with the water quality.
The “erroneous tagline” you refer to is not wrong at all. The fact is: there are Salmon spawning in the Don River and the video shows people in the city a Salmon preparing a nest, right under or collective noses. The point is that there is life worth protecting in the river and that it is a living ecosystem, worthy of our attention and care.
I am not a professional videographer and apologise for the poor quality of my video. I just hope that people in your position, with an instrument such as this to reach the public might be more encouraging and less condescending to those of us trying, by any means, to make a difference for our valley.


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Donwatcher said...

Dear anonymous,

Thank you for your comments. My attitude is: always strive for accuracy. Videotaping salmon swimming in the river is OK, characterizing that activity as spawning is not. The point should be that, yes these creatures inhabit the Don, but the river is in no condition to provide them places to spawn and secondly they are non-native. There are efforts underway to restore native Atlantic salmon to rivers around Lake Ontario but it will be many years (if ever) before they can spawn in the Don River.

Removing debris from the Keating Channel is far from feeble. The Port Authority (not the city) scoops out an average of 700 tonnes of debris per year. The pile you show is but a small part of this amount. The debris problem may seem serious but it pales when compared to the silt problem. About 35,000 cubic metres is dredged from the channel every year.

So please continue with your videos but my suggestion is that accuracy be given as much thought as aesthetics.

Anonymous said...

i spent some time fly fishing on the east don this past fall and encountered numerous chinooks that were more than willing to take a large fly...strictly catch and release. further up stream they can be found performing typical mating pattern activities trying to move the smaller rocks about to lay eggs.. its disappointing to hear their efforts are all in vain.