Spreading Iron Dust in the Ocean Raises Environmentalists' Ire

By:  James Heiser
10/22/2012
       
Spreading Iron Dust in the Ocean Raises Environmentalists' Ire

Environmentalists and their governmental counterparts throughout the United States and Canada are expressing their outrage and threatening legal action against a project undertaken in international waters that was intended to lower the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increase the population of salmon. At the heart of the controversy are the actions of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation (HSRC), which spread 100 tons of iron dust in the ocean with the intention of boosting the level of plankton in the surrounding sea water — and thus increasing the food available for the surrounding salmon population.

Environmentalists and their governmental counterparts throughout the United States and Canada are expressing their outrage and threatening legal action against a project undertaken in international waters that was intended to lower the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increase the population of salmon. At the heart of the controversy are the actions of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation (HSRC), which spread 100 tons of iron dust in the ocean with the intention of boosting the level of plankton in the surrounding sea water — and thus increasing the food available for the surrounding salmon population. In fact, the HSRC describes its project in terms of common land-based agricultural processes:

We create knowledge and foster understanding needed to practice stewardship of ocean pastures. Ocean pastures are much like pastures and ranges found on land; they are complex ecological communities of plants and animals however the “grass” of our ocean pasture is phyto-plankton.

The reaction to HSRC’s distribution of 100 tons of iron dust has been an explosion of ‘hot air.’ The New York Times, for example, railed against the project with a vehemence usually reserved for environmental ‘pariahs’ such as DDT and nuclear power. Under the headline, “A Rogue Climate Experiment Outrages Scientists,” reporter Henry Fountain fumed:

A California businessman chartered a fishing boat in July, loaded it with 100 tons of iron dust and cruised through Pacific waters off western Canada, spewing his cargo into the sea in an ecological experiment that has outraged scientists and government officials.

The entrepreneur, whose foray came to light only this week, even duped the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States into lending him ocean-monitoring buoys for the project.

Canada’s environment ministry says it is investigating the experiment, which was carried out with no government or scientific oversight. A spokesman said the ministry had warned the venture in advance that its plan would violate international agreements.

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