Weston inviting salmon activist to Ottawa 

Morton may testify by video while doing Walk for Salmon

Fisheries biologist Alexandra Morton could be going to Ottawa at the invitation of a Conservative MP.

John Weston, the Member of Parliament for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, said in a report sent to Pique just over a week ago that he's supporting a motion to invite Morton to Ottawa to testify before the House of Commons Fisheries Committee.

"Our goal is, with officials, volunteers, conservationists and others, to demonstrate commitment and provide hope," Weston said in his report. "Our Government is determined to hear both sides of the story."

Morton has been one of Canada's loudest voices calling for reforms to how aquaculture (ie. salmon farming) is regulated throughout the country, particularly off of B.C.'s west coast.

She was instrumental in a legal victory that saw the B.C. Supreme Court hand management of aquaculture to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Aquaculture was previously overseen by B.C.'s Ministry of Environment.

Prior to that she was raising alarms throughout British Columbia about the damage that fish farms could be doing to wild salmon stocks. She contends that salmon swimming out of the Fraser River are migrating through "fish farm effluent" in areas such as the Broughton Archipelago, a region to the north of Vancouver Island.

There, she once said in a letter to Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, fish are collecting sea lice that originate with the farms and are dying as a result. Morton also helped author a 2007 report that said lice from fish farms could lead to a "99 per cent collapse of pink salmon in four generations."

Reached last week, Morton said she wants to attend a committee but may only be able to do it by videoconference because she's about to embark on the 500-kilometre Walk for Salmon on Vancouver Island, which aims to raise awareness of issues related to fish farms.

"I'm going to try to do it in video," she said. "It's been like a tidal wave of e-mails and organizing, it's unbelievable how many people want to walk with us. I'm thrilled to be speaking to them but I'm going to try and do it from British Columbia."

Though happy that she gets to speak before a House committee, Morton takes issue with some testimony that has already come before it.

On March 22 the committee heard testimony from Trevor Swerdfager, Director General of the Aquaculture Management Branch at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Weston, a member of the committee, asked him whether fish farms are promoting sea lice. Swerdfager responded that farms are required to treat for sea lice if they have "three motile live lice" and that companies have to monitor their lice loads on fish in the farms.

Weston then asked him whether sea lice are developing resistance to the drug used to treat them. Swerdfager responded that there's "no evidence" the lice are developing resistance.

Morton questions various aspects of his testimony.

"There were so many points in there that are confused and I don't agree with," she said. "The denial of the sea lice problem, the denial of the impact of this industry on wild salmon and saying that our science is completely debunked, that's completely wrong."

The House committee is holding hearings because the federal government is readying to take on the responsibilities of monitoring fish farms, thanks to the court decision that Morton initiated.




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