Sometimes we make a decision that takes us down a path we didn’t anticipate. This is the story behind what it took to produce our award-winning podcast, The Salmon People, a 10-part series following an unlikely detective’s 20-year battle to save Canada’s wild salmon.

If you enjoy our podcasts, the best way to support us is to donate to Canada’s National Observer’s spring fundraising campaign to raise $100,000 to fund our vital climate journalism. Will you make a donation to CNO today and support award-winning podcasts that push the climate conversation forward in Canada?

Back in 2021 in the middle of the pandemic, I had finished producing a podcast and was at home without work and without a project. I don’t like either of those.

Then one day I saw one of those small newspaper articles that we all read every day. (and yes I do get a daily newspaper to add to all my other news sources). It was an interesting story but it left me with questions and a thirst for more.

The story I read was about B.C. biologist Alexandra Morton who fights to preserve wild salmon and orca whales. The article was an excerpt from her about to be published book, Not on my Watch. I bought the book and read it in one day, hungry for answers to the question raised by the article. Who would hire a security company to follow her around in a boat with blackened windows taking pictures with long lenses? And follow her as she scooped up tiny salmon near fish farms to check them for sea lice?

When I finished the book I knew I had to do a podcast. I contacted Alexandra Morton and asked her if she would agree to be interviewed about her work and her book. She didn’t say yes right away. She checked me out and then came back several days later to tell me I had been approved by someone who knew me from someone else who knew me. So I was in.

I began as I always do with a deep dive into research. I knew I had to go back to the beginning and find every person who held a piece of the puzzle.

I am attracted to the stories of the ordinary person who isn’t being heard.And the people in British Columbia raising warnings about the industrial fish farms weren’t being heard. Not by the governments whose job it is to protect the wild salmon that are integral to the ecosystem. Not by industry who refused to believe and dismissed the science about the disease and pathogens spreading to wild fish from their fish farms.

It was my kind of story. The work I have done in my career has shone a light into the dark corners where bad behavior, incompetency and dishonesty hide. And as I gathered old documents, newspaper clippings from forty years ago and internal government and industry reports and emails, I couldn’t help wondering if the history and damage of fish farms might have remained locked away if it hadn’t been for Alexandra Morton.

Would there be science to back up the fight against the fish farms? Or an army of people ready for battle if it hadn’t been for Alexandra Morton? That’s the thing we never know when we hear a story about one person making a difference.

Morton’s work took decades. And both government and industry still dismiss the science – now being done by more than two dozen scientists across Canada. Nonetheless, many fish farms have closed after being asked or ordered to leave by government and First Nations.

Before The Salmon People, I was just a Canada’s National Observer subscriber and reader, but when I got inside I began to see the passion, the intelligence and the perseverance of these young reporters. And yes they are on the younger side, at least from my seat.

The National Observer was almost alone when it started reporting solely on the environment and climate change in 2015. But slowly it grew in size and stature and now has an army, a small army, but still an army, reporting on the increasingly dangerous effects of our warming planet, exposing fake or bad solutions and making sure we understand what is at stake.

But of course, it all takes time – time to read a complicated document, to track down the right expert, to interview someone in person, to file ATIP requests and follow them through until the documents are handed over. And then to write the story. And as we all know, time is money. If you’ve read this far, it’s because you care about what happens to our planet and you want to be part of the solution.

That’s why I’m asking you to donate to our annual spring fundraising campaign to raise $100,000 by May 24th. We need your support to create more podcasts like The Salmon People that keep Canadians informed on our changing climate.

Thanks to our generous long-term donors, all donations made until May 24 will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000. You are also eligible for a tax receipt if you donate $1,000 or more to this fundraiser (see the footer below for instructions).

It’s something you can do and as we know the decisions we make can have repercussions for months or years or generations.

Sandra Bartlett

Managing Producer of Podcasts

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