Anti-fish farm diva gets ‘controversy’ prize

A sworn enemy of B.C. fish farming, Alexandra Morton, has been selected to receive an award for stirring up “controversy.”

A sworn enemy of B.C. fish farming, Alexandra Morton, has been selected to receive a Simon Fraser University award for stirring up “controversy.”

But, Morton’s skill at bending ocean biology to her will has isolated her in “a realm built around fear and misinformation,” say the salmon farmers she hates.

BC Salmon Farmers Association Executive Director Mary Ellen Walling says: “Because Morton works forward to prove an already-believed conclusion, rather than challenging a hypothesis to test its truth, her work is questionable to many. The fact that an academic institution like Simon Fraser University continues to reward this unethical behavior – which unduly threatens an important and responsibly-managed farm community – is disappointing.”

An SFU press release paints a much different picture of Morton and award co-winner Rick Routledge as a duo that has been “vilified” by governments, the aquaculture industry and lobbyists.

The Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy, SFU says, honours work “that challenges complacency and provokes controversy or contributes to its understanding.”

Morton says  government and industry ridicule has had an ironic impact on public support. “What they don’t understand is the more we get attacked the higher our credibility rises. I simply remain dedicated to using science to measure and define the impact of farm salmon pathogens on wild salmon. My observations suggest the impact is very serious and government is afraid to do anything about it.”

Walling counters: “Morton appears to fully believe the narrative she’s developed around salmon aquaculture and, as a result, there has been no opportunity for a progressive discussion about our business with her. She is clearly very passionate about her work however … she selectively highlights information that, taken out of context, appears to support her pre-determined point of view.

“The real shame here is that she has so narrowly directed some of the public’s attention against our farmers that significant topics of concern such as habitat destruction, warming ocean temperatures, over fishing and ocean ranching are overlooked. It is the entire suite of ocean activities that needs to be discussed when we work to protect wild salmon habitat.”

After Morton and Routledge receive their SFU award next week the pair of so-called “viciously targeted authors” gets to jointly deliver their signature anti-fish farming lecture titled “Salmon Farms and Disease – The Importance of Both Academic Freedom and Community-Engaged Research.”