Meet the Cast of ‘To the Orcas with Love’
A very well known Canadian environmentalist, geneticist and scientist, David Suzuki is the founder of The David Suzuki Foundation. He is best known, perhaps, for his time as a CBC broadcaster and his program on the CBC, The Nature of Things.
Rob was an amazing mentor and friend. He inspired me to become a documentary filmmaker and make this film.
Rob’s film Sharkwater changed people’s perception of sharks and showed us not to fear them and revealed the reality of the shark fin industry to the world.
Rob’s second documentary, Revolution, identified the biggest environmental issues our world faces this generation.
Rob Stewart was born in Toronto, Canada, and is an award-winning wildlife photographer and the director of Sharkwater. Stewart began photographing underwater when he was 13 and became a certified scuba instructor trainer at age 18. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Western Ontario, and has studied Marine Biology and Zoology at universities in Kenya and Jamaica. Stewart spent four years traveling the world as the chief photographer for the Canadian Wildlife Federation magazines. Stewart’s work underwater and on land has appeared in nearly every media form worldwide, from BBC Wildlife, Asian Diver, Outpost and GEO magazines to the Discovery Channels, ABC, BBC, night clubs and feature films.
A biologist and orca researcher, Alexandra Morton is an author and founder of Salmon Coast Research Station. She works to protect the wild salmon on BC’s coast, the northern and southern resident orca’s main food source. She is a eloquent spokesperson for ocean ecosystems.
In 1984, she followed the whales into a remote inlet off the west coast of Canada and made it her home. There were no roads, electricity or telephones, but wild salmon and wildlife thrived, as well as a community of people.
For nearly forty years, she has dedicated her life to restoring the balance between the people and the wild salmon off the coast of British Columbia.
She has become a renowned scientific voice with regards to salmon and aquaculture. While her research on whales continues, she has shifted her attention to ensuring that their research subject survives the current decade by focusing her efforts on scientifically determining the impact of salmon farming on the whales and their role in epidemic outbreaks of bacteria, viral and parasitic infections in wild salmon. Alexandra works with international scientists and in some cases commercial fishermen to document the loss of killer whales, thousands of escaped farm salmon, lethal outbreaks of sea lice, and antibiotic resistance near salmon farms.
When the salmon farms first appeared, she and others were told they would be good for us. Then the toxic algae blooms and sea lice developed, and the wild salmon die-off began.
Paul Spong has been studying orca whales for 50 years since he began his career at Vancouver Aquarium in 1967 working with the whales Skana and Hyak. After studying the whales in captivity, he recognized how intelligent they were and felt that it was not right to keep orcas in captivity. He founded Orcalab in 1970 to study the whales in the wild in their natural habitat.
Spong recognized Orca whales as “highly intelligent, social animals” and became an advocate for freeing whales from captivity and moving the study of orcas to their natural habitat.
At Vancouver Aquarium, Spong administered visual acuity tests on Skana. Skana was a good student, performing certain behaviours for fishy rewards. Despite being offered fish rewards for correct answers on the vision tests, Skana began getting all responses wrong. Once, the orca gave 83 incorrect responses in a row, a mathematic impossibility. To Spong, the orca wastesting the scientist, giving incorrect responses on purpose.
Spong also got positive results from playing music to the orcas, They seemed to always want to hear something new. It didn’t matter if it was classical music or rock and roll. If it was new, the whales responded favourably.
Spongs public advocacy for freeing the whales and moving the study of orcas to their natural habitat led to his dismissal from Vancouver Aquarium. Spong left and established Orcalab to study the orcas in the wild, with as little human interference as possible.
Orcalab attracts biology students, orca enthusiasts and photographers & videographers from around the world who volunteer and study orcas in the wild every summer.
Spong remains a staunch advocate for freeing whales from captivity.
Local resident and researcher at Salmon Coast Field Station, Scott has helped with the study of the impact sea lice on wild salmon fry. She calls the Broughton archipelago her home.
Wayne is from Alert Bay, British Columbia. He is Kwakwaka’wakw (Namgis) First Nations. He is a totem carver and also specializes in making masks and ceremonial pieces. In the film, he shares legends passed down from his ancestors about the killer whales and introduces viewers to the story of Namu, a killer whale trapped in a fisherman’s net who became the first captive killer whale displayed before a paying audience.
Author and local resident of Echo Bay, Billy grew up wild in the Broughton archipelago. Self-educated, Billy has re-stocked and rehabilitated streams where wild salmon have all but disappeared. As an advocate for wild salmon he understands how forests and fish are related; how poor logging practices, or unrestrained development of salmon farms can destroy salmon habitat, and why watershed management and conservation matter. Billy knows the salmon need the forests that shade the rivers in which they spawn, but the forests also need the salmon, which feed bears, eagles, people, wolves and many other creatures. Then, as decaying corpses and waste matter, the salmon fertilize those forests full of enormous trees. No forests, no salmon; and no salmon, no more gigantic trees.
As well, no salmon, no more Northern Resident Killer Whales.
Billy’s story is available in the biographical book, Heart of the Raincoast – a life story.