More consultation needed on ocean fertilization experiment

If you do a quick news search for the word Haida, there is certainly no shortage of hits.

If you do a quick news search for the word Haida, there is certainly no shortage of hits following news that 100 tonnes of iron mix was dumped into the ocean this summer.

The dump has raised eyebrows not just in Canada or the US but has gone international (for example, a story on the subject appeared in the Oct. 20 online version of the Bangkok Post in Thailand). And while the project has brought a huge amount of attention to Haida Gwaii and the Haida, it’s important to note that the funding came from the Massett Band Council while the Council of the Haida Nation were quick to distance themselves from it.

Reaction to the dump seems largely negative, to be honest. But the reaction isn’t to the science itself, in fact it seems to have done what it was meant to do given the size and scope of the plankton bloom that is being seen in the Pacific. The reaction is more so to the lack of consultation or public feedback to the multi-million dollar project.

Here in Canada, Environment Canada officials say they were aware that the proponents were considering going forward with the dumping of the iron, but it was preliminary discussions and no application was received or permit approved. But, say those who carried out this ocean fertilization, the actual disposal of the iron took place in international waters where Environment Canada has no jurisdiction. And, they say, the amount dumped was small enough to not break any UN laws – something the three lawyers involved with the Haida Salmon Restoration Co. will attest to.

And this is where we get into the tricky question of legal ability versus moral obligation. It’s something that is coming up more and more it seems.

If the company were legally allowed to do something, should they be doing it without first talking to those who would be impacted. Let’s face it, something that happens in the Pacific Ocean is going to impact more than just the people of Haida Gwaii or the people of Canada for that matter.   For years we’ve heard the need to consider the impact and effect on others with any project, and this simply did not do that.

With so much going on around the north coast related to potential environmental impacts and the need to consult and consider those who would be impacted, I am a bit shocked that this was carried out the way it was

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