Haida readying for second round of iron dumping in - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 04-23-2013, 09:54 PM Thread Starter
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Default Haida readying for second round of iron dumping in


Judith Lavoie / Times Colonist
April 20, 2013

The controversial Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. wants Environment Canada to return scientific data and samples — seized during office searches last month — so it can prepare for a second ocean fertilization experiment this summer.

Last year, the Old Massett-based corporation unloaded more than 100 tonnes of iron sulfate, plus iron oxide and iron dust, into the ocean 320 kilometres off the coast of Haida Gwaii.

The experiment, which was designed to increase salmon runs by creating an algae bloom for the fish to feed on, led to international controversy and accusations of geoengineering.

Debate raged over which government departments were aware of the experiment, with Old Massett economic development officer John Disney saying the government had been informed and federal Environment Minister Peter Kent describing it as a “demonstration of rogue science.”

In March, 11 Environment Canada officials spent 23 hours at the corporation's Vancouver headquarters and other locations seizing scientific data, journals and files, said Jay Straith, the company's lawyer.

“They took samples and let samples thaw out,” he said.

So far, Environment Canada has not indicated what they are going to do with the seized items and time is running out as the group prepares to collect baseline information in May, followed by a second iron dump in June, said Old Massett legal counsel Joe Spears.

“We have basically been crippled while Environment Canada fiddles around with it. At least, they should give us our copies back.”

The legal team has applied for an order setting aside the search warrant, saying the search and seizures were unconstitutional as there is no Canadian law that applies to the company's activities.

Spears wants the application heard within a month, so preparations can get underway for the next experiment.

“They don't want to go to sea without this thing being cleared up,” he said.

Environment Canada spokesman Mark Johnson said questions about potential violations or charges cannot be answered as they are the subject of an ongoing investigation by the enforcement branch.

“Ocean fertilization is not allowed under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act,” Johnson said in an email.

“The only exception to the above would be in circumstances whereby the project had been assessed … and found to qualify as legitimate scientific research.”

The aim of the iron experiment, led by California businessman Russ George, who was previously prevented from conducting iron dumps near the Canary and Galapagos islands, was to stimulate plankton growth to feed crashing salmon populations.

The Old Massett community was told the $2.5-million cost would be recouped through carbon-credit sales.

“From the science the Haida have done, we are pretty sure what we are going to see are salmon returning in 2014,” Spears said. If the federal government stops the experiment this year, they will have to answer for a drop in returning salmon in 2015, he said.

Disney said the experiment has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, but 170 million data sets have to be “crunched and catalogued and then published” to prove it.

Returning fish will be “the big, visual sign,” he said. “But we are looking scientifically at the microscopic levels, and the results are phenomenal.”

Jim Thomas of the international technology watchdog ETC Group said plans for a second dump are not entirely surprising.

“It seems to me they are trying to force Environment Canada's hand to say whether it's legal or illegal,” said Thomas, who believes there will be an international outcry if Environment Canada does not declare the practice illegal.

“But I can't see them getting away with this again.”

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post #2 of (permalink) Old 05-24-2013, 12:39 PM
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 05-24-2013, 01:44 PM
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And here I thought algae blooms killed fish. Maybe the fish just need to learn how to use less oxygen.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 05-24-2013, 03:07 PM
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One of the potential problems with the concept is that too much fertilization creates such an algae bloom that as the algae dies, sinks and decomposes it depletes the oxygen level of the lower water to the point of fish killing.

The concept is sound, no idea if the location is appropriate. Mostly I've heard of it in relation to the southern oceans, where iron is a true limiting factor to growth. You have to have sufficient levels of everything else required, and enough oxygenation and room so that dead zones aren't a concern.

Guntis's reference is to the dead zones due to algae blooms and subsequent die-off, created mostly by agricultural run-off, usually in warmer (warmer=less oxygen) inshore waters. The Gulf of Mexico is a real problem spot.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 05-24-2013, 07:12 PM
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Common sense tells me that dumping tonnes of iron sulphate into the ocean is a bad idea. And that bit about carbon credits paying for it, sounds like a scam.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 05-24-2013, 07:43 PM
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Oceanic iron fertilization is absolutely real, and appears to be of great potential benefit when done in the right area. The CO2 sequestration part of it is still unclear, it appears that so much of the increased phytoplankton are eaten that the amount actually removed permanently from the air is minimal, but there are an awful of fat and happy fish and whales, which is not a bad thing. Dramatic increases in planktonic biomass has been seen in the few experiments done, and a great effect higher higher up the food chain would be expected given a sustained effort so that new source of food continues. It would take a few fish generations before the population stabilizes at a higher level. Sea-life is used to blooms, will adapt to the new one quickly. Perhaps in the right area it could be timed to coincide with a natural migration cycle?

Given how much dreadful harm has been done to the oceans by overfishing and the dumping of poisons, some improvements may be good. Like it or not we are having an enormous unprecedented mostly harmful effect on the planet, and mitigation techniques ranging from building alpine dams where a glacier has disappeared to release water over the summer and replace what used to be a glacial stream that never dried up, all the way to oceanic iron fertilization would be a good thing.

I think this Haida Gwaii experiment may have been done poorly, in the wrong place and for the wrong reasons. I do believe the concept is sound and of great potential benefit.

Check it out, google "oceanic iron fertilization" and see what has been done.
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