When facts fail, there’s always bullying

Bullying: “using superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something” – Oxford Dictionary

Alexandra Morton is an American who came to British Columbia 30 years ago, and ever since then has set out to stop fish farming near her home. Since the 1980s, she has voiced her concerns over many aspects of salmon aquaculture. Some past concerns have been justified and helped salmon farmers evolve the sophisticated, science-based farming operations of today.

Other concerns of Morton have been less than virtuous and have failed scientific scrutiny:

·         In 1990, there was a disease outbreak at the Scott Cove Hatchery where Morton volunteered. In 1991, the same disease appeared in nearby salmon farms and in 1993 drug-resistant forms of the bacteria which cause the disease were found in nearby salmon farms. However, Morton blamed salmon farms for causing disease outbreaks and drug-resistant bacteria at the hatchery, despite being given scientific evidence showing that the strains of bacteria in the hatchery and the farms were different. To this day, Morton continues to claim that bacteria from salmon farms affected the hatchery, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. She has never apologized or acknowledged her error.

·         When a young killer whale was found dead on British Columbia shores in 1996, Morton claimed that salmon farms were to blame. An autopsy concluded that an abscessed tooth had poisoned the young orca. The doctor who performed the autopsy publicly corrected Morton’s claims, but Morton has never apologized or acknowledged her error.   

·         After the largest recorded return of wild pink salmon in an area of BC known as the Broughton Archipelago occurred in 2000, a weak return followed in 2002. A David Suzuki Foundation-commissioned report concluded it was likely the previously high brood year that over-populated rivers and reduced the out-migrating juveniles. Morton however claimed it was sea lice from farmed salmon that were the culprit. She took a picture of one fish in a million and posted it on the internet. That was proof enough for many. She published a widely circulated study that claimed “up to 95% mortality of wild pink salmon due to sea lice from salmon farms”, but an independent scientific committee also looked into the issue of potential sea lice effects on wild salmon. The committee did not conclude that salmon farms were any risk to wild pink salmon populations and also requested (and paid for) Morton to revisit her doomsday study and include salmon farm management of the sea lice concern. The follow-up study concluded “The survival of the pink salmon cohort was not statistically different from a reference region without salmon farms”. This study has never been posted by Morton on any of her websites and she refuses to acknowledge it.

·         Morton claims that cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) near her home have vacated the area because of salmon farms. This is not true – cetaceans continue to frequent the area.  In fact, in her own research, one of her first published scientific papers, she concluded that after salmon farms ceased using acoustic harassment devices in 1999, whale populations in the Broughton Archipelago had “re-established to baseline levels” by the end of 2000.

·         In 2011, Morton claimed to have “found” an exotic fish disease called ‘Infectious Salmon Anemia” in British Columbia salmon. West Coast Canadian and American scientists have never made this same conclusion. The only lab that supports her claim has failed independent quality reviews twice and is now at risk of losing its OIE ranking.

·         She formally requested to “medevac” juvenile pink salmon in 2008 (scoop thousands of salmon up near salmon farms and move them to an area beyond the farms).  She was, quite correctly, denied by Fisheries and Ocean Canada. Good thing too, because those juvenile salmon returned to their home rivers in 2010, and in very high numbers. They didn’t need her “help”.

·         Morton has a Bachelor of Science – it was a two year “flexible” course. Her honorary doctorate was gifted to her by her like-minded friends at Simon Fraser University. She has never received formal training in biology, fish pathology, fish virology, or any other ‘ology.

·         In 2013, Morton produces a film titled “Salmon Confidential”. It is rife with errors. Purposeful errors.

Morton has been found to be wrong and lying many times. But it seems her ego has convinced her, and those who devoutly follow her, that regardless of fact or evidence the end justifies the means as long as the end is the complete shutdown of all salmon farms in B.C.

Recently, since evidence, facts and common sense have failed to support their beliefs, Morton and her gang of ‘Salmon Are Sacred’ followers have resorted to simply bullying and intimidating people into submission, online and in person. They seem to understand that the public is becoming increasingly impatient with their doom-and-gloom claims, as the evidence mounts showing their claims are wrong, and their circle of influence is growing smaller, fast.

A person once published in the “prestigious Journal of Science” now resorts to petty acts of vandalizing work places, defacing farmed salmon in grocery stores, intimidating store managers to remove farmed salmon, threatening politicians with public protests, initiating boycotts of product and misrepresenting lab reports – all in an attempt to fulfill her dream of eradicating salmon aquaculture in her adopted home of Canada.

Thankfully, she is become more and more isolated. In April 2013, Alexandra Morton’s name was removed from the College of Applied Biology of British Columbia. She is no longer a Professional Biologist.


2 thoughts on “When facts fail, there’s always bullying

  1. Laurie Jensen

    Finally someone spells out the facts about Morton! I have no time for bullies and feel sorry for all those people she has duped over the years. The Morton camp has become irrelevant in any meaningful dialogue.

  2. steve

    Finally Ms Morton is no longer an RPBio in good standing with the College of Applied Biology of BC! She had no business being an RPBio in the first place. This is good news for all the hard working RPBios in BC doing credible, ethical and defensible biological work. Now their standing won’t be attached to Ms Morton. With her having RPBio status it was making the CAB a joke.


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