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Alexandra Morton

Salmon Coast Field Station

Alexandra Morton founded the Salmon Coast Field Station, which studies the relationship between killer whales, wild salmon and salmon farms.

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Alexandra Morton

Music of the orcas

Alexandra MortonFascinated by the language of cetaceans, Alexandra Morton devotes her life to their protection. This biologist grew up in the U.S. state of Connecticut. At a young age, she became interested in animal modes of communication. The more she learned about marine mammals, the more her thirst for knowledge grew. Her scientific adventure began in California, where she studied the language of a killer whale couple in captivity.

After spending several years studying the behaviour of captive killer whales, Alexandra began to wonder whether being in captivity influenced their ability to communicate. She therefore decided to embark on a mission to find the family of these whales, which were captured at a very young age.

Each family of killer whales has a unique language that distinguishes it from other families, somewhat like a regional dialect. Alexandra discovered that the orcas at the Los Angeles Aquarium came from a population residing north of Vancouver Island, in the Broughton Strait. Thanks to the unique features of their dialect, she located the family of orcas and decided to move to British Columbia to study them first-hand.

Solving the mystery of the vanished whales

ÉpaulardAlexandra Morton settled in the small community of Echo Bay, on Gilford Island. Her life there was peaceful as she studied the vocalizations of the orcas using her hydrophone. One day, however, the whales disappeared from the area. Alexandra set out to find them and understand why they left so suddenly. She discovered that they had moved to an area about 60 km farther north.

Alexandra realized that the disappearance of the killer whales coincided with the arrival, in the early 1990s, of a new industry: Atlantic salmon farming. While the impact of this industry is still poorly understood, she suspected a possible link between the disappearance of the orcas from the archipelago and the arrival of the hatcheries, since salmon is the killer whale’s main source of food.

Since the early 2000s, Alexandra Morton has been studying the impact of a parasite, fish lice, which attacks juvenile salmon and is linked to the presence of salmon farms. Today, she continues her research at the station she established in Echo Bay. Assisted by university students, Alexandra seeks to gain a better understanding of the environmental impact of the hatcheries. Her greatest hope is that the orcas will one day return to the area.

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Alexandra Morton

Par L. Pash, 2012-01-05, 21h05

Alexandra, I found it interesting and uplifting to see the work you do, but I was moved to comment by your statement: "I'm working for whales, but I'm also working for my children". Thanks!

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