More headlines for controversial Old Massett project

  • Oct. 19, 2012 6:00 a.m.

by Alex Rinfret–News about Old Massett’s ocean fertilization experiment continues to make headlines around the world this week, and was raised in Parliament in Ottawa. Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said Environment Minister Peter Kent was asked what his department had known about the experiment. He replied that Environment Canada is looking into it, that the experiment may have violated Canadian law, and that if anyone has broken the law they should be prosecuted. Mr. Cullen said Canada has no policy on geoengineering experiments like this one, and it’s not entirely clear as yet what Environment Canada plans to do. He said he first learned about the experiment – which involved dumping 100 tons of pulverized iron far offshore – when he met with Old Massett Village Council during his August visit to Haida Gwaii. He said he spoke to Old Massett representatives again this week as news of the experiment raised concerns around the world, and also spoke to scientists and environmentalists who are raising the alarm. The village is understandably confused about the federal government’s reaction, he said. Economic development officer John Disney has said that he met with Environment Canada investigators before the project went ahead, and that the village consulted with three sets of lawyers about the legality of the ocean dumping. “This is all happening because the federal government has done nothing to deal with climate change or salmon restoration,” Mr. Cullen said. “I never got the sense that (Old Massett) was trying to do harm or had any bad intent… They felt they had a defensible case.” If Environment Canada had concerns, officials should never have let the Old Massett’s leased vessel, the Ocean Pearl, leave the dock in Victoria, he said. “So far, they’ve got a failing grade, they knew about it, I don’t know what they said about it, but they allowed it to go ahead,” Mr. Cullen said. The federal government has focused on pipeline projects at the expense of saving rivers and restoring salmon, he continued. There are lots of ideas out there about how we can bring back salmon runs, but none of them are getting any help from government. That’s led to a situation where a village acted on its own to address the issue. Meanwhile, the Council of the Haida Nation issued a statement Thursday (Oct. 18) that the CHN and the hereditary chiefs council “are in no way involved in artificial fertilization through dumping of iron compounds in the ocean around Haida Gwaii.” The statement, signed by CHN president Guujaaw and listing 12 hereditary chiefs, continued: “The consequences of tampering with nature at this scale are not predictable and pose unacceptable risks to the marine environment. Our people along with the rest of humanity depend on the oceans and cannot leave the fate of the oceans to the whim of the few.”