Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

Ocean Iron FertilizationOcean Iron Fertilization
Photo: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Can a man rape an ocean?

A few months ago a so-called geo-engineer named Russ George did just that. He spewed 100 tons of iron sulphate into the sea in an attempt to breed plankton in a scientifically suspect effort to capitalize on carbon credits.

Sea Shepherd is very familiar with Mr. George.

We stopped him in the Galapagos in 2007. We stopped him in Bermuda, Madeira, and the Canary Islands in 2008. We helped to drive him into bankruptcy in 2009.

Now he’s back.

This criminal polluter has managed to do off the coast of Western Canada the very thing we stopped him from doing off South America and Africa.

Satellite images have confirmed that George has spawned an artificial plankton bloom that is covering 10,000 square kilometers. He did this by dumping 100 tonnes of iron sulphate in the Pacific Ocean in an eddy 200 nautical miles west of the Canadian islands of Haida Gwaii.

Back in August 2007, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society worked with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) and the Galapagos National Park to stifle plans by George to create a monster plankton bloom a few hundred miles from the Galapagos National Park. In 2008, we confronted his “research” vessel in Bermuda and forced George onto Madiera. We met him there and his plans to pollute the waters in the Atlantic were ended.

The next year Planktos went bankrupt and we thought we had defeated this ecologically insane plan. Planktos shut down their operations, stating that the blame for the closing of the project was because of “a highly effective disinformation campaign waged by anti-offset crusaders.”

The announcement neglected to mention that these “crusaders” were not just Sea Shepherd, but the EPA, the governments of Ecuador, Bermuda, Spain and an entire scientific community that was shocked at the fact that George was intending to use the ocean as a laboratory to test his scheme of carbon offsetting.

The Planktos plan was to sell “carbon offset” credits, earned by triggering blooms of plankton that, in theory, would absorb a predictable amount of climate warming gas carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, and then sink into the seabed. The credits would be sold to companies or individuals trying to compensate for emissions of carbon dioxide from transportation.

Plankton blooms happen naturally when dust containing iron settle on ocean waters where a lack of iron would otherwise prevent plankton from thriving. Huge blooms have resulted after dust from the Sahara Desert blows over the Atlantic, for example. Efforts to replicate the process have officially met with strong opposition from environmental groups. ??The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society opposed the iron ore dust-dumping scheme because it was condemned by the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States and was, in fact, a violation of United States and International regulations on the dumping of materials at sea. The Galapagos National Park, the Charles Darwin Foundation, and the Ministry of the Environment of Ecuador also opposed the scheme.  ?Sea Shepherd did not make any judgment on the scientific merits, if any, of this scheme. We acted because the dumping was a violation of Ecuadorian, American and International law.

Will dumping iron ore dust into the sea stimulate plankton blooms? Will increased plankton blooms sequester more carbon dioxide? We don't know, but the answers need to be found in the lab before using the living ocean as a testing facility. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is not in a position to determine scientific merit. We can only act upon the recommendations of scientific bodies and law enforcement agencies. As a partner with the Galapagos National Park and the Ecuadorian National Environmental Police we acted in accordance to their opposition to this scheme and we agreed with the EPA in the USA, and the Darwin Research Centre in the Galapagos, that the Planktos scheme lacked sufficient scientific credibility.

Planktos, Inc. was not able to provide the EPA with any information relating to an evaluation by the company or by any regulatory body of the potential environmental impacts of their planned iron addition projects, such as: ? The estimated amount and potential impacts of iron that is not taken up by phytoplankton;? The amounts and potential impacts of other materials that may be released with the iron; ?The estimated amounts and potential impacts of other gases that may be produced by the expected phytoplankton blooms or by bacteria decomposing the dead phytoplankton; ?The estimated extent and potential impacts of deep ocean hypoxia (low oxygen) or anoxia (no oxygen) caused by the bacterial decay of the expected phytoplankton blooms or, ?the types of phytoplankton that are expected to bloom and the potential impacts of any harmful algal blooms that may develop.

In 2008, 191 nations agreed to a moratorium on large-scale commercial iron-fertilization schemes.  ?The agreement, adopted on the 30th of May, 2008 at a meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn, Germany, called for a ban on major ocean fertilization projects until scientists better understand the potential risks and benefits of manipulating the oceanic food chain.? The U.N. rules were so stringent it even had the negative impact of limiting some legitimate scientific research into iron fertilization. Russ George that dismissed the moratorium in 2008 as “mythology,” and said it did not apply to his project.  ?So, in the face of international condemnation and international law, George did what he wanted to do and succeeded in dumping 100 tons of iron dust into the sea. Satellite imagery from NASA has shown that George did indeed trigger an artificial plankton bloom some 10,000 square kilometers off of the Northern coast of British Columbia. ?George stated that his team of unidentified scientists monitored the results of the biggest geo-engineering experiment ever conducted with equipment loaned from US agencies like NASA and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. He stated that it is the “most substantial ocean restoration project in history,” and has collected a “greater density and depth of scientific data than ever before”.

Sea Shepherd does not believe for one moment that NASA and NOAA had any part of what was clearly an illegal operation.  To make the matter even more sinister, George duped the Haida people on Haida Gwai into helping to finance the dumping by passing it off as a salmon enhancement project. George convinced the Haida to channel more than one million dollars of their own funds into the project that would supposedly benefit the ocean and salmon populations.?  Speaking for the Haida nation, Tribal president 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.  ?The Haida should sue George for fraud, and he should be held accountable for his potentially destructive operations. The ocean cannot be used as a laboratory for a scheme to sell carbon credits.?  If Russ George is allowed to get away with this, he will most likely dump again and he will be encouraging others to dump iron dust into the sea.?  There is a reason that plankton levels are kept in check through natural means of grazing by whales and fish. When humans begin to tinker with the natural processes, it almost always results in negative results.?  The reason that George dumped the iron dust off of British Columbia was because he was actually encouraged to do so by the Canadian government. They knew of the plan and did nothing to stop it. ?This makes sense considering that Canadian obstructionism hindered negotiations over geo-engineering at a recent U.N. biodiversity meeting in India where Canada was criticized for being one of the “four horsemen of geo-engineering.” The other three being Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain. ?The Canadian government has refused to make any statement on the operation. The iron dust dumped in the ocean was from Alberta. It appears that the Canadian government have positioned themselves to take credit if the scheme works but to have an excuse if it does not by saying they did not approve it.

The Haida are not happy with Russ George. ?Russ George is a serial ocean rapist and needs to be stopped before he pollutes more oceanic eco-systems with his mad scientist seed in this ecologically insane attempt to breed unnaturally vast colonies of oxygen-depleting, fish-killing plankton for the sole purpose of making a profit from the silly business of trading in carbon credits.

Who is the Ecological Criminal, Russell George? He was once a crewmember onboard the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior and he uses this fact to establish himself as a “credible” environmentalist although he now accuses Greenpeace of being one of the “fringe environmental organizations along with Sea Shepherd for attacking his “science.”?  Russ has a degree in biology, but has also claimed to have a degree in nuclear physics, which he does not.  He was claiming this when he was promoting cold fusion, another project without any scientific credibility or at least none that has been demonstrated to be credible.

Russ George is simply a con man manipulating societies’ concerns over climate change. He has a history of disregarding the scientific community along with a history of involvement in shady get-rich-quick schemes. ?Now that he has raised his head again, Sea Shepherd will be watching him and we will interfere with future plans to dump iron dust into the marine environment. The governments of the world have a responsibility to protect the integrity of our oceans but as usual governments are turning a blind eye when it comes to intervening against operations that profit from irresponsible exploitation of marine eco-systems.

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