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General News · 18th March 2009
An incredible opportunity to listen biologist Alexandra “Alex” Morton this Saturday, March 21 at 7:30 at Manson’s Hall.

“Alexandra Morton is a prominent advocate in protecting our precious wild Pacific salmon from the effects of salmon farming sea lice,” said Geoff Senichenko, Research Director at the Wilderness Committee. “She has worked tirelessly to communicate her message through ground-breaking peer-reviewed science, grassroots education and now defending our wild salmon in the courts. She is inspiring in her determination.”

Ms. Morton is author of many books, articles and videos, and recipient of many awards. A short bio from the Raincoast Research Society website:

Alexandra (Hubbard) Morton was born in 1957. Her childhood dream to study animals led her to Los Angeles to record and analyze the communication between two killer whales (orca) in an oceanarium there. After hundreds of hours tankside, Morton learned the whales dialect and began to associate some calls with specific whale activities. The young researcher observed complex ritual-like behaviours at day break where the whales focused great attention on where the sun first touched the water of their tank. At first it seemed possible to learn something of whale language from these two whales, but as they conceived and lost baby after baby - from stillbirth and starvation, Morton began to suspect captivity had fundamentally altered the whales. There was no way to know if they had lost other natural abilities, such as language. She worried she was studying language in whales driven insane. Contacting pioneering orca researchers in British Columbia - the captive whales' homewater, Morton was able to locate their family to the waters of Johnstone Strait off northeastern Vancouver Island. Finding these specific whales was essential to the integrity of Morton's study, because each family of B.C. whales uses a unique dialect.

In 1979, Morton went to Johnstone Strait on her own funds, fell in love with the coast and moved there in 1980. Combining talents with a dashing young film maker, Robin Morton, the couple moved aboard a boat and searched the coast for the perfect place to study whales and raise a family. In October of 1984, the matriarch orca, Scimitar, led the Mortons, deep into mainland waterways to discover a tiny floating community called Echo Bay. This has been Morton's home ever since. For the first few years Morton's research flourished in the wilderness of the inlets, and she published on the elusive mammal-eating orca - transients. In the 1990s a burgeoning salmon farming industry appeared to trigger fundamental ecological transition from pristine to industrial. When 10,000 pages of letters to all levels of government failed to elicit meaningful response, Morton realized she would have to scientifically prove that salmon farming had driven out the whales and caused epidemic outbreaks of bacteria, viral and parasitic infections in wild salmon. By partnering with international scientists and in some cases commercial fishermen Morton has documented the loss of the whales, thousands of escaped farm salmon, lethal outbreaks of sea lice, and antibiotic resistance near salmon farms. Her research on whales continues, but she realizes her situation is consistent with most who have chosen a life studying wild animals. At some point you must move from pure research to making sure your research subject survives the current decade.

This talk is presented by the Desolation Sound Salmon Enhancement Society