Canadian government 'knew about sea fertilizing'

Oct 20, 2012 by Deborah Jones
This file illustration photo, obtained from NASA, shows a massive phytoplankton bloom, as seen from a satellite. Organizers of a controversial ocean fertilization project off Canada's west coast said officials knew of the undertaking but did not stop it, and that it violated no laws.

Organizers of a controversial ocean fertilization project off Canada's west coast said officials knew of the undertaking but did not stop it, and that it violated no laws.

The project, carried out by a small aboriginal village together with US businessman Russ George, involved used a fishing boat to scatter 120 tonnes of iron sulphate last August into the Pacific Ocean west of Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off British Columbia.

The move was criticized by environmentalists, aboriginal groups and scientists for violating an international ban on ocean fertilization. It was even cited at this week's meeting of the United Nations in Hyderabad, India.

The government has denied any involvement and on Thursday a spokesman for Environment Minister Peter Kent said an investigation into the matter had been launched on August 30.

Adam Sweet told AFP federal officials met project organizers last May and told them "any iron ore deposit in waters, whether inside or outside the Canadian (200 nautical miles) limit, constitutes a violation of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act," unless it is for the purpose of legitimate research.

One of the organizers, John Disney of the Village of Old Massett, insisted organizers followed international legal and scientific protocols, and that at least seven Canadian federal agencies knew of their plan.

"The government knew exactly what we were doing," Disney told a news conference at the Vancouver Aquarium. "The work was performed in international waters, and is lawful."

Organizers said the project aims to test two goals:

One is whether iron dust can boost the and increase the struggling population of salmon, a mainstay of the area's culture and economy.

The other is whether iron dust will increase plankton, a species at the base of the ocean food chain, and lead to future profit through the sale of carbon credits.

A project document said satellite images show an increase since August of the affected area's biological activity.

However, Greenpeace spokesman Eduardo Sousa told AFP the project is "rogue science" for commercial purposes.

Evgeny Pakhomov, an oceanographer at the University of British Columbia, said iron seeding is an old idea and was previously tried on a small scale.

But he told AFP most scientists reject it because unintended consequences—including increased ocean acidification—are not yet understood.

Disney said Old Massett and not George, whom he called the "chief scientist," initiated the project. George was previously involved in attempts banned in other countries.

Disney said other scientists were involved, but cited their privacy in refusing to name them.

The Canadian $2.5 million (US$2.52 million) cost amounts to more than 25 percent of the village's annual operating budget, he added.

Explore further: Russia battles to contain Black Sea oil spill

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Canada Green leader warns against fertilizing seas

Oct 18, 2012

Canada's lone Green Party member of parliament, Elizabeth May, on Thursday decried the so-called "ocean fertilization" of the Pacific with what she claimed was Ottawa's tacit approval.

Ocean iron and CO2 interaction studied

Apr 26, 2007

A French study suggested that iron supply changes from deep water to the ocean's surface might have a greater effect on atmospheric CO2 than thought.

Vancouver marks birth of Greenpeace 40 years ago

Sep 12, 2011

A simple phone call about dead sea otters washing up on the shores of Alaska after US nuclear tests lead to the birth of environmental organization Greenpeace four decades ago.

Recommended for you

Russia battles to contain Black Sea oil spill

Dec 25, 2014

A Russian Black Sea city declared a state of emergency Thursday after a burst pipeline spewed oil into the landlocked water body, with stormy weather hampering cleanup efforts.

User comments : 12

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

loneislander
1.9 / 5 (9) Oct 20, 2012
One can only imagine what would make rational people do such a thing? It's dense with irony: To "help" the environment they create an imbalance in a natural place with unknowable consequences.

It ranks up there with "testing" genetically modified food for toxicity and keeping the discussion on toxicity and away from the issue of genetic pollution in the environment (which, unlike plutonium for example, has no half-life).
ValeriaT
4 / 5 (8) Oct 20, 2012
I'm not very happy from such an experiments, but 120 tonnes of iron sulphate is nothing very much at the marine scale: so we can make a test of what will happen there, so that the next consequences will not be completely unknowable already.
IronhorseA
5 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2012
"Adam Sweet told AFP federal officials"

Who? No mention in the previous paragraphs or in the remainder of the article.
Gigel
1 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2012
Maybe we'll run out of CO2 with these villagers. Picture the panic! :)))
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Oct 20, 2012
Who?

It says who he is in the sentence right before they mention his name.
ScooterG
1.4 / 5 (10) Oct 20, 2012
If he wanted to properly fertilize the ocean, he would have dumped crude oil instead of iron sulphate.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2012
Yes, we did test it and it works...
IronhorseA
not rated yet Oct 20, 2012
Who?

It says who he is in the sentence right before they mention his name.


"The government has denied any involvement and on Thursday a spokesman for Environment Minister Peter Kent said an investigation into the matter had been launched on August 30.

Adam Sweet told AFP federal officials met project organizers..."

I see now, however its in a different paragraph with no obvious connection (unless you keep looking back and forth between the two. I was almost about to post 'Peter Kent=Adam Sweet' till i read it again-thanks for pointing it out.)
loopie42
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 20, 2012
Our Government must be on ? Allowing a foreign country (yes foreign) to dump pollutants into an environmentally pristine area, of our...ocean. Oh they didn't know anything about it..lol well then they should take the persons involved to task then shouldn't they!!!!!Next they will be allowing Oil Tankers to take Oil to
China along the same pristine Coast.
_traw_at
5 / 5 (3) Oct 21, 2012
A volcanic eruption in August 2008 caused a much larger plankton bloom in the Northeast Pacific. Here's the abstract for a paper about it:
www.agu.org/pubs/...29.shtml

Quote: "Murray et al. recently assessed the relationship between increases of biogenic opal in the sediment record with increased iron accumulation over the last million years.[37] In August 2008, an eruption in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska deposited ash in the nutrient limited Northeast Pacific. There is strong evidence that this ash and iron deposition resulted in one of the largest phytoplankton blooms observed in the subarctic"
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_fertilization

2010 saw the largest Salmon run in the Fraser River (and the Columbia system as well) in nearly a century:
"... the Fraser River sockeye run of 2010 was the largest since 1913, numbering an estimated 34 million fish."
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adams_River_(British_Columbia)

Is there a link?? We don't know yet.
ScooterG
1.6 / 5 (7) Oct 21, 2012
Yes, ... and it works...


I know fertilizing in this manner will not work, otherwise Al Gore would be out there dumping 5 tons per day just to cover his [personal] carbon track.
Argiod
1 / 5 (2) Oct 22, 2012
Our Government must be on ? Allowing a foreign country (yes foreign) to dump pollutants into an environmentally pristine area, of our...ocean...


I hate to inform you; but our oceans haven't been 'pristine' for a long time. There is a place in the ocean where the floating garbage swirls around for a long time; and after Fukushima we now have to worry about radiation issues. I no longer eat anything that comes out of the oceans; but rely on locally farm grown fish; where I can go see what they're fed and how they're raised.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.