Spawning Grounds: Saving the Little Red Fish
Spawning Grounds: Saving the Little Red Fish
Spawning Grounds: Saving the Little Red Fish

Spawning Grounds: Saving the Little Red Fish

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    • Directed by: Nils Cowan
    • Released: 2021 (educational)
    • Year of Production: 2020
Running Time: 54 min
Language: English
Subtitle Options: English Closed Captions
Subjects: Environmental Studies

Spawning Grounds is an educational documentary film that chronicles a critical season in the life of the Lake Sammamish kokanee, a unique but little-known species of landlocked salmon with immense cultural and ecological importance. The film follows key characters – a young educator with the Snoqualmie Tribe, a newcomer fish biologist, and a private landowner/activist – as they work together to save this fascinating species and its habitat amid unprecedented development pressure.

We follow three main threads in bringing this large-scale story to life – the efforts being undertaken by local tribes to communicate the cultural and historical importance of the kokanee; the scientific work being done to better understand this unique fish species and to bring them back in ever greater numbers; and the development, planning and construction of a major restoration project along the historically critical spawning area of Zackuse Creek on the eastern edge of the lake.  These stories culminate in winter 2019 as the kokanee return to their native streams along the lake to spawn.

Through these intersecting storylines and characters, viewers gain a unique understanding of this incredible species and its cultural significance, a deeper appreciation of the ongoing impacts of human behavior on the environment, and a greater awareness of what’s possible when people of different backgrounds and motivations unite around a common goal.

Award of Excellence at the 2020 Catalina Film Festival and Official Selection for the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival 2020
About the filmmaker 
Nils has been writing and directing award-winning documentary features, short films and broadcast programming for almost twenty years. Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, he began his career in the dynamic documentary industry of Washington, DC before moving to Seattle in 2009 to found an independent production company and pursue more nature-focused work. Nils has produced long-form documentaries and short films for clients such as the National Park Service, PBS, The Smithsonian Institution, National Geographic and Red Bull Media; and has been recognized with multiple Telly and Cine Awards and five Emmys. He currently resides in Seattle with his wife, Jennie, and two kids.


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