I caught up with Alexandra Morton in Buckley Bay to walk with her awhile on her Get Out Migration trek from Echo Bay to Victoria. It was an amazing surprise to find about 100 people from local communities (mostly Hornby, Denman, and Buckley Bay), and from all walks of life, joining with her for the stroll along Baynes Sound – a hub of the aquaculture sector.

After passing by Mac’s Oyster where a few employees encouraged us to keep the signs up, we got to Cowie Creek, where we were joined by 50 local residents who oppose a coal mine planned in their watershed. It became very obvious that Alexandra’s fight for wild salmon resonates in all the communities along the old island highway, where citizens have witnessed their ecological capital eroded consistently for over 100 years.

In the fight for wild salmon, Alexandra Morton is a giant. For 30 years she has lived in the tiny community of Echo Bay, North of Port McNeil, where she works as a biologist specializing in whale communication. In the 1990s and 2000s, as commercial fisheries disappeared in her community and was replaced by fish farms, Alexandra became known for her research on sea lice (attributed to the rising number of fish farms), and its potentially devastating impact on wild salmon, particularly at their very vulnerable smolt stage.

At first Alexandra was called a zealot and a scientific hippie, and many attempts were made to discredit her research and commentary. As of late however, after she convinced the courts that we should transition regulatory authority for fish farms from the province to DFO, it has become clear that Alexandra Morton is probably the most knowledgable and important figure in the fight to save wild salmon in BC – not matter which side of the issue you stand on. At the very least, her work demonstrates that when it comes to fish farms on the ocean, we have flagrantly disregarded the precautionary principle, in favor of the argument for the “jobs jobs jobs” that may or may not help coastal communities in the long-term.

On Earth Day 2010, Alexandra began an epic trek from Echo Bay to Victoria – a peaceful march that will end at the Legislature – to raise awareness about the plight of the salmon, and to kindly ask government to promote closed containment fish farming instead of open-net ocean fish farms.

Later that day at the community hall, Alexandra gave a speech from the heart and talked about others joining the march, coming from Tofino and the interior – akin to wild salmon on a social watershed system. She briefly alluded to a vocal critic who had asked why she was doing all this. Her answer? “Because I love my home”. Victoria, here we come.

– Daniel Arbour, Program Director, Development and Communications