Alexandra Bryant Hubbard Morton is a Canadian American marine biologist best known for her 30-year study of wild killer whales in the Broughton Archipelago in British Columbia. Since the 1990′s, her work has shifted toward the study of the impact of salmon farming on Canadian wild salmon.
Net-pen salmon farms arrived in British Columbia in the 1970s but began to proliferate by the late 1980s. Since then, the salmon farming industry has grown, notably in the Broughton Archipelago. Starting in 1993, Morton began an active campaign against Acoustic Harassment Devices (AHD), which salmon farmers used to deter seals that approached the farms. Sound being killer whales’ main tool for foraging and traveling, most of them left the Broughton Archipelago. Morton’s campaign, which included sending 10,000 letters to government officials, paid off in 2001 when salmon farmers withdrew the use of AHDs. Morton has been studying the effects of sea lice on wild salmon populations. By collaborating with international scientists, Morton has documented the loss of the whales, thousands of escaped farm salmon, including Atlantic salmon, lethal outbreaks of sea lice, and antibiotic resistance near salmon farms.

In 2010, Alex moved beyond science and research, and began rallying the people of B.C. and Canada to get behind salmon farm reform. “I’m quite convinced to this day that if enough people stand up and say, ‘We don’t want this in our waters,’ it wouldn’t happen,” says Alex. She didn’t know what the critical mass was, but she was willing to find out.

Working with a number of local volunteers, as well as the full cooperation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Alex organized a 500km walk from Echo Bay to Victoria to give the public an opportunity to stand up for wild salmon and ask that salmon farming “Get Out” of the ocean. The Get Out Migration started with about 10 people on April 22, 2010, Earth Day; by the time they reached the B.C. Legislature on May 9, Mother’s Day, their numbers had grown to nearly 7,000.

In October 2010, Alex and friends organized a seven-day paddle down the lower Fraser River with 100 people in 10 Voyageur canoes. This time, rather than simply stating that they wanted fish farms out of the region, they “put a very fine point on it.” The Cohen Inquiry was getting underway to investigate the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River; Alex and the canoeists planned to arrive in Vancouver on the Inquiry’s opening day to request that all fish farmers be required to submit their disease records.

When they arrived at the courthouse on a very rainy October 25, Alex and two chiefs entered the building carrying a soaking elk hide full of signatures in support of “releasing the salmon farm disease records to find out if farm diseases were killing the Fraser sockeye.” They stood at the front of the courtroom for 15 minutes, shivering and dripping, until Justice Cohen finally acknowledged them. The three simply nodded silently and left, but they got their message across. Justice Cohen agreed to their request.

WEBSITES:     Alexandra Morton’s Blog      Alexandra Morton’s Farmed Salmon expose´      Salmon Confidential