|Tuesday, August 15, 2006|
Rafe Mair Comments on Alexandra Morton's Legal Victory Over B.C. Salmon Farmers
Commentary by Rafe Mair
Alexandra Morton has just had a complete vindication and a smashing victory. It's now up to us to see that the victory is turned into a win for British Columbia wild salmon.
Alexandra Morton is a biologist who lives in the Broughton Archipelago just across from Port McNeil on Vancouver Island. A few years ago she became concerned at the number of sea lice in the channels in the archipelago and the effect they might be having on tiny migrating wild salmon smolts and if there were a problem, was it in any way related to the Atlantic Salmon fish cages that were situated right in the paths of these migrating wild fish. She did her testing and to make a long story a bit shorter she found that there was a relationship and that millions of small wild salmon were dying so that large international fish farmers could ply their trade in nicely suitable, for them, channels. She was hit with everything but the ring post along the way - Fisheries and Oceans Canada threatened to arrest her for illegal testing, the fish farmers hired Hill and Knowlton, the world's largest PR firm to discredit her - they also hired a flatulent discredited former Greenpeacer to try to discredit her. The Provincial Liberal government called into question her scientific integrity. She was pilloried by the local press, mostly ignored by the mainstream media, and constantly badmouthed by Mayor - but on she plugged. Before long, the world's acknowledged scientists in this field validated her work and her findings - some of them did studies of their own which confirmed Alex's work. She was peer published many times over yet the fish farmers kept fighting. The ex Greenpeacer attacked her personally; the governments ignored her findings and claimed that all the science was on their side; the mayor of Port McNeil, an Irish windbag named Gerry Furney, tried to stop my wife and me going into the archipelago to view the situation with Alex by throwing up a picket line at 6:00AM.
Alexandra Morton had had enough so she laid private information against both governments and a Fish farm company. As is invariably the case when private prosecutions are laid the Attorney-General appointed Special Counsel, an eminent counsel named William Smart, QC to look at the evidence to see whether or not a criminal conviction would be likely. He found it would not and the fish farmers, Hill and Knowlton and the "Benedict Arnold" ex Greenpeacer exulted in their victory. We won, they brayed.
But they hadn't. Far from it, it was a smashing rout because the scientific evidence called upon by Mr. Smart completely vindicated Ms Morton's work and in fact praised it highly. No ... the case was dropped because while Mr. Smart acknowledged that the lice were killing the fish held that there was doubt a conviction the criminal onus of proof for this type of offence would lie for "releasing" these lice. It was the interpretation of the word "release" that got the farmers off the hook. It was the inadequate wording of the law that opened the loophole Mr. Smart was forced to concede.
Let me conclude with the words of Frederick Whoriskey from the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the expert called by Mr. Smart. Here's what he said, "Having reviewed the evidence specific to the Broughton Archipelago, additional studies available in the scientific literature on the impacts of sea upon salmonids worldwide, having visited the Broughton Archipelago, and based on my past work experience, I am of the opinion that the evidence shows that sea lice in the Broughton Archipelago are infecting and killing Pink salmon. (Emphasis added)