by Craig Weatherby and Randy Hartnell
Last year, marine biologist and wild salmon protector Alexandra Morton co-authored a paper published by the prestigious journal Science.
Her paper documented the threat posed to young wild salmon by sea lice from British Columbia’s salmon farms.
And in so doing, it made waves in the halls of government and in the boardrooms of huge industrial salmon farming firms.
We’ve been covering her fight to protect wild salmon from fish farms near her home north of Vancouver. To read these articles about Alex’s struggle, search our newsletter archive for “morton.”
New York Times covers one woman's fight to save wild salmon
Alex’s work on behalf of wild salmon and the eco system they support will be featured on the cover of the Science Section of The New York Times tomorrow, November 4th, in an article titled “Saving Wild Salmon, in Hopes of Saving the Orca” (Dean C 2008).
The article begins by placing Alex in an historical context: “Growing up in Connecticut, Alexandra Hubbard did not want to be Joan of Arc. She wanted to be Jane Goodall. But instead of chimpanzees, her animals would turn out to be killer whales.”
The Times piece includes two revealing passages (Dean C 2008):
“Once dismissed as an outsider and amateur, Ms. Morton has gradually gained the respect of fisheries experts like Ray Hilborn, a researcher at the University of Washington. ‘She doesn’t come from a science background but she has had a lot of influence in highlighting the issue,’ he said. Daniel Pauly, director of the Fisheries Center at the University of British Columbia, calls her ‘a spunky hero.’
“That may be because she takes the issue personally. The disappearance of the orcas in the Broughton ‘ruined my life, absolutely,’ Ms. Morton said one day recently as she headed off to net baby salmon and check them for sea lice. ‘A lot of people have lost stuff they set out to do but, yeah, it ruined my whole plan.’”
The newspaper's profile of Alex Morton comes at the perfect moment, one day after she and her colleagues submitted a fiery, defiant declaration to the UN.
Declaration sends shot across United Nations' bow
Today, we heard from Alex about a declaration that she and colleagues from Chile, Norway, the UK, the U.S. and Canada submitted to the United Nations.
It highlights the damage being done to fish-farm workers, fisher folk, wild fish, and the ocean ecosystem by poorly regulated fish farms.
Their International Declaration Against Unsustainable Salmon Farming is reproduced below.
This group action follows a solo protest Alex sent in 2006 to Jacques Diouf, Director General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
To learn more about the threats posed by fish farming, search our newsletter archive for “farm”, go to the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform and visit Alex’s Web site.
If you agree that poor regulation of fish farms threatens the oceans, go to the website www.ourglobalocean.org to register, and type “yes” where indicated, to add your name to the declaration penned by Alex and company.
Here is the international group's declaration, followed by their press release:
Against Unsustainable Salmon Farming
We are global environmentalists, First Nations, scientists, tourism business owners and operators, and fishermen/women fighting to save our coasts. We have inspected salmon farms, and held summits in Chile, Canada and Norway.
We conclude that the science is conclusive: open-net cage salmon farming is severely impacting the world’s oceans.
Specifically, salmon farming is:
1. Ecologically devastating (e.g.: destabilizing ecosystems by killing wild salmon across the northern hemisphere, discharging invasive species. Depriving wildlife such as bears, eagles, whales as well as human communities of a primary food source, causing massive viral and sea lice epidemics, and genetic pollution)
2. Socially destructive: (e.g.: leading to worker death and labor law infractions in Chile, threatening valuable local economies, degrading traditional food resources and ignoring the rights of Canadian First Nations, Chilean artisanal fishermen, and Norwegian and Sami fisherman)
3. Threatening local food security with drug, feed and feces discharge: (e.g.: chemical net antifoulants, unapproved louse chemotherapeutics, antibiotics, flesh colorants, tons of nitrogen and phosphorous associated with toxic algae blooms)
4. Threatening the global food supply by fishing the North Atlantic and South Pacific to produce aquaculture feed resulting in a net loss of fish supply available to feed people, affecting also the marine food web.
We found that the salmon farm corporations, largely Norwegian owned, are denying impact and distracting the public from hearing the truth in all our countries. We found that governments are complicit with the fish farming industry delaying protection of ocean resources and also withholding the truth from the public that salmon farms kill wild salmon and harm other indigenous species.
The United Nations Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries adopted in 1995 states “As a primary goal, aquaculture development should conserve genetic diversity and minimize negative effects of farmed fish on wild fish populations, while increasing supplies of fish for human consumption.” We declare each of these principles violated by today’s global marine salmon farming industry.
Ocean ecosystems are essential to life on earth. As such we are resolved to protect our oceans from salmon farming. We are calling for a global moratorium on raising salmon in net pens and an immediate halt to the destruction of public ocean resources by this industry. We invite others to learn more and sign at www.ourglobalocean.org.
It is our intention to prevent this industry from continuing to devastate our Oceans.
Click here to see the document with signatures, as sent to the UN.
The petitioners’ press release
Fish Farm Opposition: The Gathering Storm goes International
International Declaration Against Unsustainable Salmon Farming sent to United Nations
November 3, 2008 - International environmentalists, First Nations, scientists, tourism operators and owners, fishermen/women met in Chile, Norway and Canada on the impact of salmon farms.
Joined by people from Scotland, U.K and the U.S. they are sending the Declaration Against Unsustainable Salmon Farming to the United Nations reporting that industrial salmon farming is using the same ruinous tactics worldwide
“They came into my territory and denied, delayed, distracted us from the truth for 20 years with no regard for their impact on the environment and my people,” states Bob Chamberlin chief of the Kwicksutaineuk/Ah-kwa-mish First Nation in Canada.
Industrial net pen salmon farming originated in Norway then moved into Scotland, Ireland, and Canada and is now spreading rapidly through Chile at huge ecological cost. Scientific studies show that wild salmon populations are crashing wherever there are salmon farms due to pathogen amplification and genetic pollution, but the damage runs much deeper.
Participants signed the Declaration in united opposition to the current practices of industrial salmon farming, citing not only damage to wild salmon, but also labor law infractions in Chile, viral epidemics, impact on the indigenous Sami of
Norway and First Nations in Canada, fouling of local food resources with drug and waste release as well as reduction of the global food supply—taking more wild fish than it produces.
“I'm deeply ashamed as a Norwegian. After damaging our wild salmon, the industrial salmon farmers are fouling the pristine waters of Canada and Chile. Nobody in Norway knows about this, but I will tell them,” warned Kurt Oddekalv of Green Warriors of Norway.
Anne Mosness of the U.S. Go Wild Campaign says, “In Washington and Maine massive escapes, diseases and the possibility of genetically engineered fish and offshore farms pose huge risks to the viability of our oceans. We cannot ignore our obligation to future generations to keep our oceans alive."
[Editor’s note: Anne Mosness is our friend and neighbor here in Bellingham, Washington. Anne captained salmon fishing boats in Alaska and Washington for more than 25 years, was a founding member of the Women's Maritime Association, and later developed the “Go Wild” campaign to educate consumer about the benefits of wild salmon and the risks of poorly regulated salmon farming.]
The 1995 United Nations Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries states “As a primary goal, aquaculture development should conserve genetic diversity and minimize negative effects of farmed fish on wild fish populations, while increasing supplies of fish for human consumption.”
“We declare each of these principles violated by today’s salmon farmers,” says Canadian biologist Alexandra Morton.
While some would like to see salmon farms in closed tanks, Dr. Wolfram Heise, of Chile states “It is simply not possible to produce salmon in a sustainable way. You will never get it into ecological balance. There is no right way of doing the wrong thing! This industry plunders the wild fish stocks of the oceans and to destroy the coastal marine ecosystems which will need decades to recover, if ever."
The signatories have spent years working to protect their coastlines from salmon farming with little result and today come together in a global response to a global industry. They invite others to sign the Declaration Against Unsustainable Salmon Farming at www.ourglobalocean.org.
- Alexandra Morton, Canada 250-973-2306, 250-974-7086 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chief Bob Chamberlin, First Nations, Canada 250-974-8282 mooguy@Shaw.ca
- Kurt Willy Oddekalv, Norway +47 90 89 22 68 email@example.com.
- Anne Mosness, USA west coast 360-671-6478, cell 360-224-4100 Eatwildfish@aol.com
- Don Staniford: USA +1 202 251 3997, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wolfram Heise, Chile +56-65-250079 email@example.com
- Bruce Sandison, Scotland 01847 611274, 0759 3187634 (mobile) firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dean C. Saving Wild Salmon, in Hopes of Saving the Orca. The New York Times, November 4, 2008. Accessed online November 4, 2008 at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/04/s