Parties to the international treaties which regulate the dumping of wastes and other matter at sea have issued a statement of concern regarding the deliberate ocean fertilization activity that was recently reported to have been carried out in July of 2012 in waters off the west coast of Canada.
The Contracting Parties to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 (London Convention) and to the 1996 Protocol thereto (London Protocol), meeting in London from 29 October to 2 November 2012, expressed “grave concern” regarding this activity, reportedly conducted by the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation, and which involved the deliberate introduction into surface waters of 100 metric tonnes of iron sulfate.
The statement refers to an agreement made in 2008 that ocean fertilization activities, other than legitimate scientific research, should not be allowed. It goes on to point out that legitimate scientific research is defined as those proposals that have been assessed and found acceptable under the 2010 “Assessment Framework for Scientific Research Involving Ocean Fertilization.” This, it says, should be used to determine, with utmost caution, whether a proposed ocean fertilization activity constitutes legitimate scientific research or is contrary to the aims of the Protocol or Convention. The statement also strongly re-emphasises the point that economic interests should not influence the design, conduct and/or outcomes of any proposed ocean fertilization activity.
In the statement, the Parties recognized the actions of the Government of Canada in investigating this incident and stressed that ocean fertilization has the potential to have widespread, long-lasting, and severe impacts on the marine environment, with implications for human health.
The Parties have been reviewing the issue of ocean fertilization since 2007 and have developed options that would establish a global, transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanism for ocean fertilization activities and other activities falling within the scope of the London Convention and Protocol that have the potential to cause harm to the marine environment.
A working group on ocean fertilization which met during the recent meeting of Parties (29 October to 2 November 2012) carried out more work on the various options, developing draft text for each, for further consideration at future meetings.