Delegates at an international meeting in London have condemned the dumping of more than 100 tonnes of iron off B.C.’s coast, raising the ire of the lawyer for the First Nation involved in the project who calls the declaration "irresponsible."
The condemnation came Friday in the form of a statement from delegates in a meeting of the United Nations' International Maritime Organization, a body that expressed "grave concern" over the ocean fertilization project undertaken in July by the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp.
According to the statement, ocean fertilization should not be allowed under international convention, except for legitimate scientific research, because there are human health concerns and the potential for "widespread, long-lasting and severe impacts" for the ocean's environment.
'Any geoengineering amounts to a rogue and unacceptable gamble with our future.'—Iron dumping critic Jim Thomas
The UN body notes scientific research must first be assessed and found acceptable under a framework developed in 2010.
Joe Spears, legal counsel for the salmon corporation and village of Old Massett, said Friday the declaration has set off showdown.
"You know, this is a clash between big science and big [non-government organizations], and village science and indigenous peoples," Spears said.
"The facts will speak for themselves, and the Haida people have always been a law-abiding people and they're in compliance with Canadian law and international law."
Spears said nobody from the UN body bothered to contact the First Nation before issuing the statement.
He said the First Nation has nothing to hide, followed the guidelines for their scientific research, is in contact with Environment Canada and is pleased to co-operate with its investigation.
"On a changing planet we need to have dialogue and discussion, you know. Charles Darwin did not have a PhD, or he wasn't a tenured professor or he wasn't an NGO. A lot of these are value judgments of people that have no understanding. They're making statements. It's irresponsible."
The salmon corporation and the village completed the ocean fertilization project last summer in an effort to boost salmon returns and earn profits from carbon capture.
The theory behind the work, specifically for carbon capture, is the iron creates a phytoplankton bloom, which is a natural sponge for the atmosphere's carbon. Organisms feed off the plankton, die, sink to the ocean's bottom where the carbon is trapped.
During the experiment, the salmon corporation dumped iron dust, iron sulphate fertilizer and iron oxide over about one-square kilometre about 300 kilometres west of the Haida Gwaii islands.
Satellite images suggested the project resulted in a 10,000-square-kilometres plankton bloom.
Spears said the First Nation collected and is now analyzing "180-million data points" from the experiment.
Call for crackdown
But Jim Thomas, of the ETC Group, an organization that works on issues of how new technology can impact the world's poor and vulnerable, said in a media release that the UN statement amounts to a "clear international condemnation" of the project.
"It is now time for Canada to take action and announce that they will prosecute those responsible for breaking this international convention," Thomas said.
"The Canadian government should also signal that they will move to make this the last geoengineering experiment. Any geoengineering amounts to a rogue and unacceptable gamble with our future – whoever carries it out."
Earlier this week, federal Environment Minister Peter Kent said in the House of Commons that his department was investigating the "demonstration of rogue science."
It's expected the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. will have to wait about two years to see if their experiment achieved the desired effect on salmon returns.