Undisclosed large scale ocean fertilization off Canada’s coast contravenes international conventions and places important ocean ecosystems and species at risk

Russ George, former chief executive of Planktos Inc., and partners dumped around 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean as part of a geoengineering scheme off the west coast of Canada in July. The intention is for the plankton to absorb carbon dioxide and then sink to the ocean bed – a geoengineering technique known as ocean fertiliaation that could support carbon credits

Satellite images appear to confirm the claim that the iron has spawned an artificial plankton or algal bloom as large as 10,000 square kilometres. The intention is for the plankton to absorb carbon dioxide and then sink to the ocean bed – a geo-engineering technique known as ocean fertilization. The dump took place without any prior public disclosure from a fishing boat in an eddy 200 nautical miles west of the islands of Haida Gwaiii, one of the world’s most celebrated, diverse ecosystems.

The Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation, a private partnership funded by the Old Massett Village Council of the Haida First Nation, provided more than $1 million of its  funds for this project. The president of the Haida Nation Guujaaw said the village was told the dump would environmentally benefit the ocean, which is crucial to their livelihood and culture.”The village people voted to support what they were told was a ‘salmon enhancement project’ and would not have agreed if they had been told of any potential negative effects or that it was in breach of an international convention,” Guujaaw said.

International legal experts say Mr George’s project has contravened UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)  and London Convention on Prevention of Marine Pollution from the Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (the London Convention),, which both prohibit for-profit ocean fertilisation activities. This ocean dumping of iron would have been illegal if it has occurred  in Canada’s waters without authorization under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Mr George had previously tried to conduct large-scale commercial dumps of iron near the Galapagos and Canary Islands which led to his vessels being banned from those ports by the governments of Ecuador and Spain. At that time, the US Environmental Protection Agency warned Mr George that flying a US flag for his Galapagos project would violate US laws. Mr George’s prior activities contributed to the UN CBD and London Convention provisions limiting ocean fertilization.

There is scientific debate as to whether ocean fertilization can sequester carbon in the oceans over the long term, and concern about whether it can irreparably harm ocean ecosystems, produce toxic tides and oxygen starved waters, or worsen ocean acidification. Possible side effects such as deep water oxygen depletion, and alternation of distant nutrient cycles and food webs make iron dumping questionable, and at the very least require any dumping to occur under controlled and carefully monitored circumstances.

There has been one experiment conducted in 2004 that suggested ocean fertilization might be have some positive effect. In February 2004, researchers involved in the European Iron Fertilization Experiment (EIFEX) fertilized 167 square kilometres of the Southern Ocean with several tonnes of iron sulphate in a precise and controlled manner. For 37 days, the German research vessel Polarstern monitored the bloom and demise of single-cell algae or plankton in the iron-limited but otherwise nutrient-rich ocean region. This experiment was done on a small scale in an isolated region of the Southern Ocean,  with the open and transparent participation of research institutes and scientists, and prior to prohibitions under the CBD and London Convention. Eight years later in July 2012, an analysis of the 2004 EIFEX experiment in Nature News suggested that some carbon was sequestered in that experiment.






Related posts:

  1. Ocean Iron Fertilization and Ocean Acidification
  2. Ocean Iron Fertilization Geoengineering: New Study on Deep Carbon Export
  3. Ocean Fertilization Geoengineering: Time to Stop?
  4. Ocean Iron Fertilization and Potential Toxic Diatom Production
  5. Ocean Acidification and Echinoderms
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About Magdalena A. K. Muir

Magdalena AK Muir, B.A., J.D., LL.M. is Adjunct Professor at John Hopkins University, where she teaches on offshore wind, ocean energy and offshore grid infrastructure marine in the Masters of Science- Energy Policy and Climate program. Magdalena is Associate Professor, Aarhus School of Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus University, and participates in the Nordic Centre of Excellence for Strategic Adaptation Research (NCoE NORD-STAR) on adaptation to climate changes in Scandinavia and the Arctic. She is a Research Associate with Arctic Institute of North America, a bi-national research institution based at the University of Calgary, and teaches on international energy issues at this university. She is a member of the Law Society of Alberta and is a practicing barrister and solicitor with International Energy, Environment and Legal Services Ltd.. For the Arctic, Magdalena collaborates with the University of the Arctic and the Centre for the North Roundtable of the Conference Board of Canada, and is a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. . Since 2004, Magdalena is Advisory Board Member, Climate with the Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC), leading their engagement on sustainable energy development in Europe, including offshore wind and ocean energy and grid infrastucture. She is active on European climate adaptation and mitigation policy, and in the QualityCoast global programme for sustainable tourism destination criteria. Further information on these EUCC activities are found on the EUCC webpage entitled: Articles and Presentations on Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change for Biodiversity, Ecosystems, Energy and Water (http://www.eucc.net/en/climate_change/index.htm). Dr. Muir has the following research projects, which are implemented in cooperation with the AINA, John Hopkins University, Duke University, Aarhus University and the NCoE NORD-STAR. - Adaptation Governance for Global and Climate Change in the Circumpolar Arctic - Arctic Resource Development and Climate Impacts, Adaptation, and Mitigation - Beaufort Sea Project for Climate Change: Impact and Adaptation to Climate Change for Fish and Marine Mammals in the Canadian Beaufort Sea - Changing Oceans in a Changing World - The Circum-Arctic Health Project : Northern & Remote Community Health & Resilience Considering Economic & Environmental Changes - Parallels for Arctic and Antarctica Governance and Resource Management - Sustainable Energy Development - Sustainable Tourism See http://www.arctic.ucalgary.ca/research for further information on these projects

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