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Alexandra Morton

Raincoast Research

Using partnered science to unleash the Salmon Forest's capacity to renew itself.

Raincoast Research was founded in 1981 (under the name Lore Quest) to conduct year-round research on the acoustics of the orca of the British Columbia coast. Over the years the mandate of this society has broadened. Initially, Raincoast Research focused only on the orca, documenting passage of every whale through the area. Conservation was not an obvious concern when the work commenced in 1984 in a remote archipelago between Kingcome and Knight Inlets called the Broughton Archipelago. Whales were abundant, salmon plentiful and the local community of floating homes (Echo Bay) thriving. Then the work expanded to include documentation of the return of the Pacific white-sided dolphin to this area after an absence of over 70 years. This exciting research included creation of the first photo-catalog of over 900 individual dolphins to facilitate understanding of their social system and use of the area.

In 1987 the first corporate salmon farm arrived in the archipelago, and all expected prosperous times for the community and reduced pressure and conservation of wild salmon stocks. In a few short years these hopes were dashed as the archipelago began to flash warning lights of ecological collapse - toxic algae blooms, explosive disease and parasitic events in salmon, hundreds of seals and some sea lions shot, the orca vanished and the human community began a downward spiral towards ghost town. As the wild salmon went, so went the humans. Raincoast Research became actively involved in unprecedented studies on impact of salmon farming, when it became clear the government refused to do this work. These studies are undertaken in collaboration with international scientists. As well, Raincoast became a founding member of the Broughton Archipelago Stewardship Alliance (BASA) which put local people to work monitoring, assessing and restoring freshwater salmon habitat. Today Raincoast Research continues to record whale and dolphin activity as well as research and publication on the devastating impact of Atlantic salmon farming in British Columbia. Raincoast Research can provide field support for a small number of scientists and students interested in researching the impact of salmon farms. Contact us.


Orca and Dall's porpoise (c) Alexandra Morton
Orca and Dall's porpoise (© Alexandra Morton, ink)

Alexandra Morton

Alexandra Morton

Alexandra (Hubbard) Morton was born in 1957. Her childhood dream to study animals led her to Los Angeles to record and analyze the communication between two killer whales (orca) in an oceanarium there. After hundreds of hours tankside, Morton learned the whales dialect and began to associate some calls with specific whale activities. The young researcher observed complex ritual-like behaviours at day break where the whales focused great attention on where the sun first touched the water of their tank. At first it seemed possible to learn something of whale language from these two whales, but as they conceived and lost baby after baby - from stillbirth and starvation, Morton began to suspect captivity had fundamentally altered the whales. There was no way to know if they had lost other natural abilities, such as language. She worried she was studying language in whales driven insane. Contacting pioneering orca researchers in British Columbia - the captive whales' homewater, Morton was able to locate their family to the waters of Johnstone Strait off northeastern Vancouver Island. Finding these specific whales was essential to the integrity of Morton's study, because each family of B.C. whales uses a unique dialect.

In 1979, Morton went to Johnstone Strait on her own funds, fell in love with the coast and moved there in 1980. Combining talents with a dashing young film maker, Robin Morton, the couple moved aboard a boat and searched the coast for the perfect place to study whales and raise a family. In October of 1984, the matriarch orca, Scimitar, led the Mortons, deep into mainland waterways to discover a tiny floating community called Echo Bay. This has been Morton's home ever since. For the first few years Morton's research flourished in the wilderness of the inlets, and she published on the elusive mammal-eating orca - transients. In the 1990s a burgeoning salmon farming industry appeared to trigger fundamental ecological transition from pristine to industrial. When 10,000 pages of letters to all levels of government failed to elicit meaningful response, Morton realized she would have to scientifically prove that salmon farming had driven out the whales and caused epidemic outbreaks of bacteria, viral and parasitic infections in wild salmon. By partnering with international scientists and in some cases commercial fishermen Morton has documented the loss of the whales, thousands of escaped farm salmon, lethal outbreaks of sea lice, and antibiotic resistance near salmon farms. Her research on whales continues, but she realizes her situation is consistent with most who have chosen a life studying wild animals. At some point you must move from pure research to making sure your research subject survives the current decade.


Curriculum Vitae

Alexandra Bryant Hubbard-Morton


1957 Born in Connecticut, U.S.A.

1977-1978 Volunteered at the Human/Dolphin Society with Dr. J.C. Lilly. Cataloged 2,000 audio recordings of dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

1977 Graduated Magna cum Laude from the American University in Washington D.C. with Bachelor of Science

1978-1979 Worked for Dr. Sam Ridgeway at Navel Oceans Systems Center on correlation of sound production of dolphins to physiological states.

1978-1981 Designed and conducted study to examine correlation between call types and behaviour, in captive killer whale pair. Published results (Morton, A.B. 1986)

1979 Lead three weeks of field work in Johnstone Strait, B.C. to continue sound/behaviour correlation work with free-ranging whales.

1980 Move to British Columbia and conduct two month field season on killer whale acoustics

1981 Marry fimmaker Robin Morton, form non-profit charitable society (Lore Quest) renamed Raincoast Research.

1984 Initiate longterm field study in the Broughton Archipelago. Commence daily records on cetacean activity, begin 24h/d underwater acoustic monitoring continuing to present to aid in detection of marine mammals.

1987 Expanded killer whale work to include influx of thousands of Pacific white-sided dolphins

1988 Observe arrival of first salmon aquaculture farm

1997 Become Canadian Citizen, as well as American citizen

1999 Co-found Broughton Archipelago Stewardship Alliance with Eric Nelson and Kate Pinnsonault to hire and educate local people to assess, monitor, recommend restoration and restore small salmon-bearing creeks in the Broughton Archipelago.



Referreed Publications

Morton, A. B., J.C. Gale and R.C. Prince. 1986. Sound and behavioral correlation in captive Orcinus orca. In: Kirkevold, B.C. and Lockhard, J.S. (eds.) Behavioral biology of killer whales. Alan R. Liss, Inc. New York. Pp. 303-333.

Morton, A.B. 1990. A quantitative comparison of the behaviour of resident and transient forms of the killer whale off the central British Columbia coast. Report of the International Whaling Commission. (special issue 12): 245-248.

Ford, J.K.B., G. Ellis, L. Barret-Lennard, A.B. Morton, R. Palm and K.C. Balcomb. 1998. Diet specialization in two sympatric populations of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in coastal British Columbia and adjacent waters. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 76(8):1456-1471.

Ford, J.K.B., G.M. Ellis, D.R. Matkin, K.C. Balcomb, D. Briggs, and A.B. Morton. 2005. Killer whale attacks on minke whales: Prey capture and antipredator tactics. Marine Mammal Science 21(4):603-618.

Krkosek, M., A. Morton, and J.P. Volpe. 2005. Nonlethal assessment of juvenile pink and chum salmon for parasitic sea lice infections and fish health. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 134(3):711-716.

Morton, A.B. 2000. Occurrence, photo-identification and prey of Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhyncus obliquidens) in the Broughton Archipelago, Canada 1985-1997. Marine Mammal Science. 16(1):80-93.

Morton, A.B. and H.K. Symonds. 2002. Displacement of Orcinus orca by high amplitude sound in British Columbia, Canada. ICES Journal of Marine Science. 59:71-80.

Morton, A.B. and J. Volpe. 2002. A Description of Escaped Farmed Atlantic Salmon Salmo salar Captures and Their Characteristics in One Pacific Salmon Fishery Area in British Columbia, Canada, in 2000. Alaska Fisheries Research Bulletin Vol. 9(2): 102-110.

Morton, A., R. Routledge, C. Peet, and A. Ladwig. 2004. Sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) infection rates on juvenile pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) and chum (Oncorhynchus keta) salmon in the nearshore marine environment of British Columbia, Canada. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 61(2):147-157.

Morton, A.B., and Routledge, R. 2005. Mortality rates for juvenile pink Oncorhynchus gorbuscha and chum O. keta salmon infested with sea lice Lepeophtheirus salmonis in the Broughton Archipelago. Alaska Fishery Research Bulletin 11(2):146-152.

Morton, A., R.D. Routledge, and R. Williams. 2005. Temporal patterns of sea louse infestation on wild pacific salmon in relation to the fallowing of Atlantic salmon farms. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 25(3):811-821.

Morton, A., and R.D. Routledge. 2006. Fulton's Condition Factor: Is it a valid measure of sea lice impact on juvenile salmon? North American Journal of Fisheries Management 26:56-62.

Krkosek, M., M.A. Lewis, A. Morton, L.N. Frazer, and J.P. Volpe. 2006. Epizootics of wild fish induced by farm fish. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. PNAS published October 4, 2006, 10.1073/pnas.0603525103

Krkoek, M., J.S. Ford, A. Morton, S. Lele, R.A. Myers, and M.A. Lewis. 2007. Declining Wild Salmon Populations in Relation to Parasites from Farm Salmon. Science 14 December 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5857, pp. 1772 - 1775. DOI: 10.1126/science.1148744

Morton, A., R. Routledge, and M. Krkosek. 2008. Sea louse infestation in wild juvenile salmon and Pacific herring associated with fish farms off the east-central coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. North American Journal of Fisheries Management. Published online March 31, 2008.

Non-refereed Publications

Morton, A.B. 1994/5. The impact of fish farms on Marine Mammals. B.C. Marine Mammal Journal vol. 2.

Science papers in progress

Volpe, John P. and Morton, A. B. Significant underestimation of feral Atlantic salmon in coastal British Columbia. Under review.

Hay, A., A.B. Morton and K. Dodd. Pacific capelin (Mallotus villosus): Indicators of ecosystem change? Under review.

Morton, A.B. and J.P. Volpe. Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in Pacific salmon fishery in British Columbia, Canada.


Morton, A.B. 1985. Humpback Retunion. International Wildlife Sept/Oct.

Morton, A.B. 1987. Into the World of Orcas. International Wildlife.

Morton, A.B. 1987. The Return of the Humpback. Beautiful B.C.

Morton, A.B. 1990. The Play's the Thing. Nature Canada.

Morton, A.B. 1990. Life Afloat on the B.C. Coast. Canadian Geographic.

Morton, A.B. 1994. These Whales Have Gotten to Know Me, Smithsonian Magazine Nov.

Morton, A.B. 1996. "Dances with Dolphins", Equinox. June.

Morton, A.B. 1996. Salmon Farming's Hidden Harm. Earth Island Insitute. Summer.

Morton, A.B. 1996. Fish Farming - Growing too Fast? BBC Wildlife. October.

Morton, A.B. 1997 - present. From the Archipelago. WaveLength Magazine regular column.

Morton, A.B. 1997. Where the wild dolphins play. California Wild.

Morton, A.B. 1998. Strangers on the shore. B.B.C. Wildlife. July.


Morton, A.B. 1991. Siwiti - A Whale's Story. Orca Books, Victoria.

Morton, A.B. 1993. In the Company of Whales, from the Diary of a Whale Watcher. Orca Books Victoria.

Morton, A.B. 1998. Life Among the Whales. In: Intimate Nature. Chapter. Ballantine Books New York.

Morton, A.B. and B. Proctor. 1998. Heart of the Raincoast. Horsdal and Schubart, Victoria.

Morton, A.B. 2002. Listening to Whales. Random House, New York.

Morton, A.B. 2004. Beyond the Whales: The Photographs and Passions of Alexandra Morton. Heritage House Publishing, Victoria.

Hume, S., A. Morton, B. Keller, R.M. Leslie, O. Langer, D. Staniford. A. 2004. A Stain Upon the Sea: West Coast Salmon Farming. Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, BC.



1984 - present Longterm monitoring of archipelago ecosystem with daily data collection on marine mammal presence and area usage and local rainfall.

1984 - present Record killer whale acoustics with concurrent voice track describing whale identification, behaviour and circumstances to create database large enough to find relationships between calls and other parameters. Photo-identification done on the whales and sent to Department of Fisneries and Oceans database on killer populations in British Columbia.

1987 - present Initiated photo-identification of Pacific White-sided dolphins to examine social structure and site fidelity. Currently have records on 940 individual dolphins. Make recordings of these dolphins to conduct analysis similar to killer whale work. Finding an extraordinary repertoire.

August 2000 Responded to fishermen's reports of unusual numbers of Atlantic salmon in commercial catch by interviewing every commercial fisherman in range at every fishing opening to count 10,240 Atlantic salmon and examine stomach contents in 800 of these fish. (Paper with Volpe under review.)

2001-2002 - Responded to commercial shrimp fishermen's report of unprecedented occurrence of an eye afixing copepod on sole by-catch. Collecting samples and shipping to interested expert in Mississippi for co-publication on this anomaly near salmon aquacultre pens.

2001-2001 - Responded to unprecedented appearance of lethal sea louse levels on juvenile pink salmon by finding an expert scientist partner, to study epidemic. (Publication in progress.)

2002- present - Initiate work on bacterial colonies beneath salmon aquaculture pens to create project with interested microbiologists. (Funding applications underway.)



1985 - present Volunteer as director and/or field assistant to the Scott Cove salmon enhancement facility.

1996 Pesticide Appeal No. 98-PES-01 to limit spraying 127 kg of Vision over 59.6 ha and 10.8 kg of Release over 4.5 ha in watershed of fish bearing habitat Elbow Creek, tributary of the Kakweikan River. Raised funds for Sierra Legal Defence Lawyer and hydrologist. Found unmarked water courses. Decision reduced Vision and Interfor volunteered to not use Release.

1998 Pesticide Appeal No. 98-PES-10 to disallow aerial spraying of glyphosate by the Ministry of Forests into the watersheds of Call Inlet and Port Neville. Raised funds for lawyer and hydrologist. An agreement was reached outside the appeal between all parties not to use aerial application of glyphosate in any of the proposed areas and ground foliar spraying only on areas not in salmon-bearing watersheds.

1999 Pesticide Appeal No. 99-PES- 09 (a) to limit spraying of Vision into watershed of the Kingcome River. Raised funds for hydrologist and lawyer. Lost this appeal, but further interaction with Tsawataineuk partners in this appeal encouraged Interfor to use manual brushing.

2000 Pesticide Appeal No. 2001PES-002 to limit spraying of 657 kg of Vision and 2.4 kg of Release in the salmon bearing watershed the Kliniklini at the head of Knight Inlet. Interfor withdrew application.

2001/2 Pesticide Appeal No. to limit application of Vision to the watershed of the Wakeman River. Appeal not complete.

Government Position

1996 - 1999 Representative and alternative representative for Broughton Archipelago, Malcolm Island and part of Cormorant Island (Area A) on Mount Waddington Community Resource Board.



1985 Aug. CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORP., "Footloose in B.C."

1990 Spring ABC TV, "Beautiful Killers", One hour special on killer whales. Includes footage of me in the field and several interview clips. Producer Nick Noxon.

1991 OMNI PRODUCTIONS, "Killer Whales in the Wild" purchased by National Geographic Explorers Program.

1993 KEG PRODUCTIONS, "The Day the Whales Returned" and DISCOVERY CHANNEL "Profiles of Nature, series IV," 24 min.

1994 French Production, "Animalia, #238."

1995 JOURNEYS WITH LAUREN MILLAR, "Alexandra Morton: dolphin dynamics Part 1, Part 2 BPN 591508 Discovery Channel January1996 (416)484-2897.

1996 Nov.18 U.NEWS "Whales in the Mist" and "Fish Farms - Whales" with Julia Foy.

1997 WILD THINGS Episode #010 (213) 860-8081.

1998 OMNI FILMS, Vancouver, "The Living Coast."

2001 BBC/CBC joint production, "The Price of Salmon."

2001 January 7 CBS SUNDAY MORNING, "Animal Intelligence."

2001 July 4 BBC, "Rolf's Amazing World of Animals - Orcas."

2001 Nov 14 CBC MARKET PLACE, "Wild and Farmed Salmon"

2002 FRENCH PUBLIC TV THALASSA, "Killer Whales and dolphins" - not aired yet.

2002 CBC, "Across Country Canada" - not yet aired


1991 "Whale Correspondent" for CBC Radio, "Basic Black show"


2006 The Vancouver Aquarium Murray A. Newman Award for Significant Achievement in Aquatic Conservation
VanAqua Press Release



Box 399, Sointula, BC, Canada V0N 3E0
E-mail AlexandraMorton5@gmail.com
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