Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Go Alex!

I'm not sure how many in the fly fishing world are noticing, but we owe a helluva lot to a biologist and activist named Alex Morton. A trained biologist, and passionate environmentalist, Alex has been leading the fight against open net pen fish farming in the Lower Mainland BC since the start. Over the last decade she has been involved in some of the most important research to document the environmental impacts of fish farms and associated sea lice outbreaks and while progress has been slow, change is coming. This month Alex led a protest walk all the way down Vancouver Island to raise awareness of the plight of juvenile salmon out-migrating past a gauntlet of fish farm produced disease and parasites. The walk culminated with a demonstration in Victoria attended by thousands of passionate wild salmon advocates.

As a young biologist I view this sort of environmental stance as far too rare among researchers and academics. Too many are content to receive government money in exchange for not rocking the boat. DFO and industry lobbyists are quick to categorize Alex as an advocate, prone to overstatement and lacking objectivity. Sure she is an advocate but thats what's so refreshing. The world needs more people like Alex. We are woefully short on people who are not content to sit behind a desk in a bureaucratic agency job and watch as wild fish and their ecosystems go down in flames. And, so far she's been mostly right when it comes to the impacts of sea lice. Sadly, salmon populations have almost uniformly crashed in areas with high densities of salmon farms and the peer reviewed research has mostly confirmed what Alex has been saying for a decade. Meanwhile the industry and DFO knowingly spread misinformation to protect the status quo. All I can say is GO ALEX! you're an inspiration.

Fish farming in BC is almost certainly having some impact on Puget Sound Salmon and Steelhead, although the proportion of our fish that travel out the Georgia Strait as opposed to turning left and going out Juan de Fuca is unclear. The fish farming industry is knocking on Washington's door, apparently there are 8 fish farms in Puget Sound....8 too many. There is almost certainly a fight brewing to stop the industry from expanding further and we had better be ready if we want to avoid the same fate as Georgia Strait and Broughton Archipelago stocks.

Visit Alex's website and learn more...


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