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Geoengineering 'experiment' off Canadian coast: 100 tons of iron sulfate dumped in ocean

Alaska Dispatch
Giovanni/Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center/NASA

In July, California businessman Russ George dumped around 100 tons of iron sulfate into the ocean off the coast of western Canada as part of a geoengineering scheme to stimulate marine plankton productivity, the Guardian reports.

George’s experiment, called "ocean fertilization," was intended to artificially boost plankton that would absorb carbon dioxide and then sink into the ocean bed, perhaps absorbing enough of the greenhouse gas to qualify for carbon sequestration credits. The dumping appears to have spawned a plankton bloom that spread up to 10,000 kilometers, according to satellite images.

Consequences of George's experiment, however, are “difficult if not impossible to detect and … might occur months or years later," John Cullen, oceanographer at Dalhousie University, told the Guardian.

In order to dump the iron sulfate off the coast of Haida Gwaii, George convinced a nearby village that his project would benefit the environment and restore marine productivity, including restoration of salmon runs. Canada's The Globe and Mail reports that the community, Old Massett, spent more than $2.5 million on the project.

“The community put their food and clothing money on the line to do this. That’s what it meant to them,” John Disney, economic development officer with the Old Massett Village Council, told The Globe and Mail. “They are losing the salmon and that’s a fundamental foundation block of their culture, and there’s nothing you can threaten the Haida community with more than to say you are not going to have any more salmon.”

The village used a reserve fund to pay for the project and is hoping it can recover its investment through carbon trading, and through harvesting a revived salmon run.

Read much more from the Guardian, and from The Globe and Mail.