APTN National News
OTTAWA–Environment Minister Peter Kent said a Haida-owned company was in “apparent” violation of Canadian environmental law after initiating an experiment to dump 100 tonnes of iron dust into the Pacific Ocean to boost plankton levels.
Kent, responding to a question from the NDP during question period, said his department had not approved the experiment.
“Environment Canada was not asked to approve this apparent violation of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act,” said Kent. “Anyone who contravenes environmental law should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Kent only found out about the project three days ago, said his spokesman.
The Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation launched the $2.5 million experiment to boost the level of available plankton for salmon and create a carbon sink to tap into the potentially lucrative carbon credit market. The experiment was carried out under the direction of Russ George, a businessman who has been hounded by environmentalists for years.
The experiment, the largest geoengineering project in the world, was carried out in July, in an area around 320 kilometres from the Haida Gwaii islands of British Columbia’s coast. It has been roundly criticized by some environmental groups who say it violates at least two UN moratoria and that it’s a dangerous to artificially alter ecosystems.
John Disney, head of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation and economic development officer for the Old Massett Village, said the experiment is simply recreating natural conditions to boost the survival rates for Pacific salmon which form one of the cornerstones of Haida diet and culture.
Disney says he has also met several times with Environment Canada officials who have known about it for several months. Because the experiment fell outside Canada’s jurisdiction, there is little Environment Canada can do about it, he said.
“We have lawyers watching our back,” he said. “I kept (Environment Canada) in the loop on this.”
A spokesperson for Kent said in an email that officials informed the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation that its experiment violated Canadian environmental law whether it happened inside or outside Canada’s 200 mile limit if it was done without a permit, which was never issued.
Environment Canada has been investigating since Aug. 30, said Adam Sweet.
“Canada does not condone the practice of ocean dumping unless the proper procedures are followed first,” said Sweet, in the email.