Rogue Geoengineer Illegally Dumped Tons of Iron Into the Pacific in July

By Ashley P. Taylor | October 18, 2012 10:57 am

spacing is importantThe yellow and brown on this map of the western Canadian coast represent high concentrations of chlorophyll.

A California businessman lobbed 110 tons of iron into the ocean off the western coast of Canada this July, The Guardian revealed  on Monday, and he did it in violation of two international moratoria on such activity. Russ George wanted to stimulate the growth of phytoplankton to sell carbon credits for the carbon dioxide that the tiny photosynthesizing organisms would take out of the atmosphere. Satellite images from August (above) showed that about 10,000 square kilometers of ocean greenery had already grown.

This sort of iron dumping project is called “ocean fertilization” because the iron acts like fertilizer to stimulate phytoplankton blooms. Scientists debate whether or not this will actually sequester carbon, though one European experiment reported positive results this summer, and they worry about the damage that might be wrought by such dumping. In addition to being scientifically controversial, ocean fertilization is banned by the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity and the London Convention on marine dumping.

Apparently, none of this deterred Russ George. Neither did his past failures: In 2007, he established a company, Planktos Inc., and tried to “fertilize” waters near the Galapagos and Canary islands in 2007 but aborted the plan when the business venture failed and his boats were banned from Spanish and Portuguese ports. This time around, he established a company, Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation, in order to carry out his plans and got a local village to invest $1 million in it. George told the paper the two bans were but “mythology.”

The UN Convention on Biodiversity is meeting this week in India. Several governments and other groups are calling for them to upgrade the moratorium and give it some way of being enforced.

Image via Giovanni/Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center/NASA




  • Andrea Scafidi

    I do hope that Entrepreneurs learn from mistakes in the past. This sounds like another experiment going wild. The main motivation seem to be the bottom line, not the healing of our planet!

  • Tony Mach

    Just need to create the right incentives (“carbon credits”) and the invisible hand of the free market magically does the rest…

    Yeah, right, what could possibly go wrong.

  • http://none Georg

    and they worry about the damage that might be wrought by such dumping.

    No, they worry about running out of “reasons” to worry about.

  • Paul

    The level of hysteria about this experiment is truly amazing.

  • wilzard

    IMO – at least someone is trying to do something about AGW… as opposed to telling us how bad we are going to get it in the future because we can’t stop or even meaningfully slow this runaway train.

  • Rupert MacLannahan

    Seriously? “Moratoria” used as the plural form of moratorium? Please, in English words are pluralized by adding an “s” to the end. “Moratoriums” is much preferred.

  • blindboy

    That sounds like a cunning plan wiLzard……let everybody do something and hope for the best!

  • floodmouse

    Please tell me there is some legal way to police this type of action. If there’s not, maybe there ought to be.

  • Whimsy

    Why didn’t George try this experiment in his own backyard instead of dumping the overdose of oxidative material off the coast of BC? I am all for finding new solutions to our penchant for making problems – but this potentially volatile and counter-productive experiment can do significant damage to the highly sensitive marine habitat of BC which is also the home of many marine mammals that already have a number of challenges against them. He should be questioned as to how he is monitoring the system and what he plans to do if he has ended up throwing the baby out with the bath water – and fined.

  • Jumblepudding

    When it says “10,000 square kilometers of ocean greenery had already grown.” this would mean as a direct result of the dumping of iron the previous month? I wonder if any “salmon restoration” will actually occur as a result of this illegal action.

  • Jake

    I guess it makes me a troll to look at the silver lining here – for better or worse, this is an opportunity to guage the harm caused by ocean fertilization and weigh it with the benefits of carbon sequestration.

    Granted, we could have developed a much better controlled and less dangerous experiment…

  • John Lerch

    What I don’t get is: If this activity is banned, how can he sell any credits to make money anyway? If they want to ban it, just make sure that no one gets to reap any financial benefit.

  • wilzard

    @blindboy – thanks for chastising me, and I mean it.

    I never did mean that anyone should try practically anything to solve our problems.

    What I mean, and what I should have said, was that finally we hear about an experiment to try and restore some of our environment instead of just constant whinging about how bad it is and will be.

    I, personally, feel a need to have something done, be proactive, etc – I agree with Jake where he says it should have been much more controlled less dangerous, but also offically sanctioned.

  • desotojohn

    Let’s not let this experiment go to waste. Say what you want about the legal issues, the fact is the deed has been done. A research team should be assembled to document the conditions of the test area prior to “fertilization” and the effects it had afterwards.

  • desotojohn

    Let’s not let this experiment go to waste. Say what you want about the legal issues, the fact is the deed has been done. A research team should be assembled to document the conditions of the test area prior to “fertilization” and the effects it had afterwards.

  • http://discovermagazine wardo

    In other news, thousands of tons of iron were dumped into the ocean when the Titanic sunk.

  • Dionysius John

    Rupert MacLannahan
    No one asked you, Rupert, to be an English Nazi. You’re incorrect in any case as ‘moratorium’ is latinate in origin and, thus, may correctly be pluralized as ‘moritoria.’
    Stuff that in your fart pipe, dim wit.

  • Blathering Blathiscope

    It’s a pretty picture, but it doesn’t really mean anything without a before and after picture with similar weather, ocean currents, rainfall, etc.

    Coastal British Columbia has seen the lowest rainfall in recorded history this year. We only recently saw a significant rainfall last week. We have also seen some of the warmest weather extending this late into the season.

    So unless you can show a picture with similar conditions before and after, the picture is useless.
    This guy should be arrested, as should anyone who assisted knowing they had no permits to dump, which is what it comes down to. I’d like to go to his house and dump twenty five years of human and dog excrement on his yard. As an experiment. See if he likes it.

    I won’t though. I don’t save my dogs or my own excrement. Just to be clear. That would be weird.

  • Alex H

    @ Rupert MacLannahan Not all words in English are made plural by adding an S. Moratorium for example. From :

    mor·a·to·ri·um   [mawr-uh-tawr-ee-uhm, -tohr-, mor-] Show IPA
    noun, plural mor·a·to·ri·a  [-tawr-ee-uh, -tohr-]

    Here are some more examples:

    Man becomes men
    Woman becomes women
    Fungus becomes fungi
    Thief becomes thieves (note that not all words ending in “f” follow this patttern: roof/roofs)
    Species remains species
    Medium becomes media
    Person becomes people

    There are many many more.

  • Lisa

    I wouldn’t be surprised if all that condensed iron caused a change in the magnetic field to create huge earthquakes.

    The magnetic grid-point is very close to where iron was dumped.


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