Being on the stand at the Cohen Commission was a depressing experience. Salmon were not on the minds of the lawyers for the Province of BC and Canada. Mr. Taylor, lawyer for Canada, Mr Prowse for BC and Mr Blair for the BC Salmon Farmers objected to the 60-page report I wrote that pulled together what DFO said, and what the province of BC found about the relationship between salmon farms and the Fraser sockeye. As part of the "Aquaculture Coalition" this is what the Commission expected of me. When my lawyer tried to introduce the report as evidence Taylor objected on the grounds it was "hearsay," and that I was there to give evidence "viva voce," which means in latin "in the living voice." But when I tried to use my living voice, objections stopped me on the basis that I was not qualified. Why did the Cohen Inquiry amass over 500,000 documents if we weren't allowed to use them?
While the salmon farmers and DFO witnesses were allowed long answers, I was talked over by the lawyer of BC and told this was not an opportunity to make speeches even though my answers to the government lawyers were extremely short. At some point my testimony will be on the Cohen website under Hearings (Sept 7, 8). The pattern of the Fraser sockeye collapse and recent return is so stark I do not know how anyone could avoid applying the Precautionary Principle to this situation immediately.
Only the sockeye that closely passed salmon farms collapsed. DFO science found evidence of a virus in the ones that were dying. The clinical condition of these fish and genomic evidence pointed to a mystery sickness that began in Chinook salmon farms on the Fraser sockeye route in the early 1990s, exactly when the sockeye began to collapse. The pale gills, swollen kidneys and tumour - like lesions were found in both the farm Chinook salmon and the sockeye. When the Norwegian companies quietly removed the Chinook farms mid-2007, the 1st sockeye generation that went to sea since 1992 without being exposed - returned in historic numbers in 2010. This is what Canada and the Province of BC would not let me talk about. This is the uncomfortable truth that defies the policy that salmon farms do not kill wild salmon. I told the courtroom that when push comes to shove the government hands it to the industry, not the wild salmon. I was there, I saw what they did with my own eyes as I was living in the remote wilderness when this industry arrived with its government enablers. DFO field staff quit in protest when they could not veto inappropriate sites, sites where the Province of BC promised us locals they would not put farms. Those original sites are still in operation. It feels like an invasion, no one has any rights not the First Nations, not the local people, certainly not the other life in the sea only the shareholders of these corporations
The lawyers for Canada and the Province of BC did not want to hear about the emails where DFO scientists were talking about the dying sockeye in the Fraser River. They were trying to figure it out, but had no money. The government lawyers did not want to hear that the Provincial vet examining farm salmon is meticulously documenting new lesions. He reports these lesions are similar to the dangerous Norwegian Salmon Alphavirus, Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation, which causes the farm salmon to die of heart attacks as they are being harvested, Pancreatic Disease and Infectious Salmon Anemia virus. They did not want to hear that the province is developing tests for viruses they say are not here. They refused to meet me on the battlefield, opting instead to throw rocks from the bushes. They attacked my education, my Registered Professional Biologist standing, our freedom to move over the ocean freely in a boat and the right to free-speech.
Mr. Taylor, the lawyer for Canada took issue with a blog posting (below) where I reported Dr. Miller said on the stand that she doesn't have funding to continue working on sockeye. Without her work we will never confirm if there are brain tumours killing the Fraser sockeye. Taylor said I was wrong - Miller was funded to work on sockeye:
Taylor: You know that to be wrong? That's not what Dr. Miller said is it?
Morton: She did.
Taylor: Would it be accurate to say you just don't pay attention to what you don't what to hear?
Morton: I don't think you can hear me. We should pull up her testimony right now and check that out.
Taylor: Yeah, I'll ask the questions, please.
For the record here is what Miller said:
MILLER: ... So, at the time, right now, I actually have no departmental money or outside money to work on sockeye salmon from the Fraser River.
Regarding my Registered Biologist standing:
Taylor: Do you agree with me that it is against the Code of Conduct for a registered biologist to speak disparagingly of a colleague registered biologist?
MORTON: It is, yes.
Taylor: And can we equally apply that, then, to you should not be disparaging of other professionals, such as veterinarians?
MORTON: Mr. Taylor, in my personal code of conduct, when I see --
Taylor: No, I'm asking about the biologists' Code of Conduct --
MORTON: -- an ecosystem being destroyed, I will use what tools I can that are fair and legal to try to represent that truth.
MORTON: For me it's very clear, the DFO needs to protect the wild salmon from whatever it is, so the complexities of regulation and the bureaucracy behind it, I don't fully grasp, but I do grasp the biology of the situation.
Taylor: Well, I suppose you might say that it's all very simple if everyone agreed with you, but you know that everyone doesn't agree with you, correct?
MORTON: It's really not a matter of agreeing with me, it's a matter of an honest appraisal of the natural world and what's happening, the dynamics between the two populations.
Taylor: All right. That's your view of it, I take it, but you full well know that there are people who hold contrary views to what you do, correct?
MORTON: I full well do, but I believe they're wrong.
Taylor: Yes, I know that. And many of those people that hold contrary views are very respected scientists, correct?
MORTON: Are they respected? I have honestly lost a lot of respect in this process, I have to be honest with you. I don't mean to be harassive with that statement, but when you are looking at the fish and you have put enormous effort into it, it's inescapable, the effect of this industry, whether it's toxic algae blooms, displacement of the whales, --
Taylor: Yes, we're talking about --
MORTON: -- lice, bulging eyeballs --
Taylor: -- respected scientists.
MS. MORTON: -- blackening skin, it's just really --
Taylor: Ms. Morton, we're talking about respected scientists at the moment, if we could stick to the question, please. You know that people like Dr. Noakes, Dr. Beamish, Dr. Jones, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Dill, with certain caveats, and others, all have a different view than you, don't you?
MORTON: I don't believe Dr. Dill does have a different view from me, but the rest --
Taylor: Well --
MORTON: -- of them I know have a very different view.
Taylor: All right. Thank you. We won't debate Dr. Dill's view right now, then. Now, with all that, do you accept that there is complexity - I think you do - to creating a new regulatory regime?
MORTON: I accept there are complexities.
Taylor: And there also has to be consultation with quite a number of interested parties and stakeholders, including First Nations, doesn't there?
Taylor: And will you agree that in the time available, which is approximately 12 to 16 months from the decision until the regulatory regime came into play, that a lot of good work was done in order to set up a new regulatory regime?
MORTON: No, I don't think it was good work.
The reason I said this is because under the new regulations salmon farms face no restrictions on dispersal of lethal pathogens from their sites into Canada's most productive waterway, the Fraser sockeye migration route. If a company released an exotic pathogen into BC waters no law would be broken, if it killed or weakened the majority of Fraser sockeye no one would be responsible. If we lost the salmon like we lost the cod, once again, no one would be responsible. I would argue that if no one is held responsible no one is going to simply do what it takes to restore the Fraser sockeye.
The scientists that are listed above did not speak to the data being recorded by the one vet who is actually looking at the farm salmon. Unfortunately for all of us, his data goes through a second vet, who does not believe in Plasmacytoid Leukemia. Therefore no matter how many symptoms get reported - it will never be diagnosed and if it is not diagnosed it does not exist. The other scientists did not speak about the numerous reports of classic exotic disease lesions in the farm salmon. I don't know why nobody else is concerned that BC is developing a PCR for Salmon Alphavirus, or that there is a new lesion that has only been seen since 2008 or that the CFIA follow-up on ISA virus was a call to the companies. I have no explanation why I seem to be the only one concerned.
Brenda Gaertner representing some of the First Nations participating in the Inquiry recommended removing salmon farms from the sockeye migration route as a test. Good Idea! A lot is at stake here.
After nine months of pouring over thousands of DFO emails, reports, briefings, and the provincial databases on the classic lesions associated with extremely dangerous foreign diseases in farm salmon, all I wanted to do was go outside and smell the real world again. I hated that I had to keep so much secret, when it affects the people of Canada. I phoned the elected chief of the territory I live in a told him I would abandon the Inquiry if he asked me to and reveal to him what I know about the salmon of his territory. I felt the same way about all the First Nations on the Fraser River, and the people whose livelihoods depend on wild salmon. I also felt responsibility to the whales I used to study. Chief Chamberlin asked me to stay in the process because we all had the expectation I would get a chance to present what is known. But the lawyers for Canada and the Province prevented this.
Two days after this experience I headed out in my speedboat to northern Blackfish Sound shut off the engine and felt the power of the open Pacific carry me towards the natural turbines of Blackney and Weyton Passes. I thought how could government and their lawyers be so blind to such wealth of the natural systems . Without the natural resources BC would be poor and yet we are destroying it so fast we will leave only the ruins to the next generation. They only see the coporate lobbiests that arrive at their doors in appropriate clothing, documentation in hand that fit neatly into bureaucratic keyholes. These lawyers prevented the terrible truth from coming forward - the DFO did nothing while millions of sockeye died at their feet. Fisheries were closed, salmon became scarce in some years to the people whose bodies require it. And then when one of their own stumbled on the answer to why, DFO prevented her from attending meetings, speaking to media, and she has no funding to work on sockeye salmon. I know this was not a personal attack by Taylor, and Prowse, it is not their personal view - they were instructed by their clients Canada and British Columbia.
What they can not see is the rich surface waters boiling under in strong currents, mixing the cool deep water with the sunlight-rich waters and how this causes life to flourish. The air was alive with birds, humpback whale blows hung in the foggy morning stillness, people were fishing, the planet cooled, the salmon flowed beneath my boat to feed the forests, the herring flashed trying to escape predators from above and beneath. The air smelled of deep forest and salty ocean. I felt the courtroom fade as one more memory surfaced.
Morton: I can say whatever I feel is the right thing to say
Prowse: And you feel free to attack those who disagree with you?
Morton: I feel free to defend the home that I love and want to see thrive.
Please Justice Cohen read my report, perhaps even allow it to become public and look closely at the stark pattern that begs solution. Wild salmon will not survive the disease amplification of salmon farms.
I would like to thank my amazing lawyers Greg McDade and Lisa Glowacki of Ratcliff and Co. who worked around the clock in the final weeks to prepare for the multiple panel members that were up daily. The inquiry has not provided nearly the funds they needed to engage at this level of intensity, but this did not prevent them from giving this 110% - thank you both so much!
And "Steve" I may start publishing your comments when you start using your full name. As an R.P. Bio., you could provide useful dialogue, but I don't respect who people call me down while hiding their identity.