For this 1st episode of season 3, we welcomed author, scientist and activist, Alexandra Morton. In 2021, Alexandra published her book entitled Not on my watch: how a renegade whale biologist took on governments and industry to save wild salmon to great interest and acclaim. Her book details the history and controversy surrounding the impact of salmon farming on wild salmon populations on the coast of British Columbia. This episode was unique because we were also joined by students from the Conservation and Biodiversity field of our Master of Environmental Science program here at the University of Toronto-Scarborough. I assigned Alexandra’s book for my Scientific Literacy class this past semester and we invited the students to take part in the conversation with Alexandra, and as you’ll hear they had many fantastic questions about Alexandra’s science and activism, and also the more personal side of her journey.

We had a fascinating conversation with Alexandra where we explored the history and controversy of salmon farming in BC, including her scientific contributions on the ecological impact of salmon farming and her challenges towards both the work and actions of both the department of fisheries and oceans (which we refer to as DFO) and the provincial government of BC. The full extent of the story is also captured in the documentary the unofficial trial of Alexandra Morton, which details her experience testifying for the cohen commission on the decline of the Fraser River Sockeye. We also spoke about her relationship with Indigenous communities along the British Columbia coast and the variable positions of Indigenous governments on the practice of salmon farming.

It was truly an immersive conversation about a very complex topic, and one that demands a perspective grounded in scientific literacy. Alexandra’s work exposed the environmental externalities resulting from the poorly regulated salmon farming industry, and it was a privilege to speak to her about her story and her science. And we’d like to also thank the Master of Environmental Science students for being a huge part of the conversation.