Activist spreads her message in the Shuswap

Famed wild salmon activist and marine biologist Dr. Alexandra Morton will be on a speaking tour of the Shuswap from May 9 to 12.

  • May. 2, 2012 9:00 a.m.

Famed wild salmon activist and marine biologist Dr. Alexandra Morton will be on a speaking tour of the Shuswap from May 9 to 12, with engagements in Lumby, Enderby, Salmon Arm and in the North Shuswap.

On Thursday, May 10, Morton will speak at the Senior’s Activity Centre, 170 5th Ave. SE, Salmon Arm at 7:30 p.m. The public event is sponsored by Shuswap Environmental Action Society (SEAS), Salmon Arm KAIROS, and the Adams River Salmon Society.

Morton began her marine biology career studying captive killer whales at Marineland of the Pacific in Los Angeles and soon realized she needed to study these whales in their natural habitat.

When fish farms began to expand into the area in the late 1980s, the local fishing community turned to her for help. Her research then focused on the impact of these farms on wild salmon and soon her papers, published in leading journals such as Science, were warning how sea lice were spreading from the farmed Atlantic salmon to wild pink salmon.

In 2001, she predicted the stock collapse that occurred the following year. After she went to the B.C. Supreme Court in 2009, the decision required the federal government to uphold their constitutional obligation for regulating the ocean fishery, which forced them to take over management of the fish farm industry from the province.

Last year Morton provided key testimony to the Cohen Commission, the federal inquiry into the decline of the Fraser River sockeye. Her research has found that salmon anemia, a disease associated with farmed salmon, is present on the West Coast, despite denials by the government. Most recently, Morton has had tests done on farmed salmon purchased at Lower Mainland supermarkets that show evidence of a virus. Consequently, she has put forward a request to have the Cohen Commission inquiry reopened to examine the evidence about the virus, which could be one of the key factors responsible for recent salmon run declines.

“Our government has prioritized the fish feedlot industry and foreign trade over the welfare of wild Pacific salmon,” said Morton. “This could well be the biggest, most ecologically and financially devastating cover-up in the history of our province,” she added.

“We are pleased to help make the tour possible by providing the financial support needed to cover the travel expenses,” said Darlene McBain, president of the Adams River Salmon Society.

“Not only are fish farms likely impacting the health of B.C.’s salmon, they also are impacting those communities that depend on a viable wild salmon fishery, including First Nations,” said Anne Morris, of Salmon Arm KAIROS Committee.  “We look forward to learning more about the issues from one of Canada’s foremost experts and finding out how we can help,” added Morris.

On May 11, Morton will be at the Enderby Seniors Hall at 7 p.m. And on May 12, outdoor enthusiasts will meet at the interpretive cabin and then hike with Morton in Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park from 10 a.m. until noon and then enjoy their picnic lunches until 1 p.m.