Email from Dr. Wajih Naqvi
14 Jan 2009 12:17:53 +0530 (IST)
From: SWA Naqvi <naqvi (at) nio.org>
Greetings from all participants of the LOHAFEX cruise on board the R.V. Polarstern.
I read your report on protests against our ongoing expedition and wish to present our side of the story as follows.
The campaign against LOHAFEX has been spearheaded by the NGO, ETC Group, that is using half-truths to defame us. It claims that LOHAFEX violates international law. According to this group there exists a moratorium on OIF imposed by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This is not true. The CBD did come up with a recommendation against large scale OIF activities ostensibly by private companies, but it made an exception for small-scale scientific
experiments in coastal waters. The term 'coastal waters' was an aberration. As you will appreciate coastal ecosystems are more sensitive than the open ocean ecosystems. In any case, subsequent developments have rendered this decision irrelevant. The Parties to the London Convention and Protocol of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in their meeting at London during 27-31 October 2008 adopted a resolution that, in fact, underlines the need for further research on OIF. Significantly, this resolution does not distinguish between open-ocean and coastal waters, and also does not talk about scales of the experiments. This resolution thus supersedes the CBD decision. All the IMO resolution (which is not binding, and we have a letter from IMO to this effect) requires is an evaluation of proposals for scientific experiments on a 'case to case' basis. Presently, there does not exist an international mechanism for this purpose and so this review has to be done on a national basis. As it it, our project, approved by the planning commission, has been thoroughly evaluated. So there is nothing preventing us from embarking on this project. This is the legal status.
As for the experiment itself, it is in collaboration with the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, one of the finest oceanographic institutions in the world. Agreement for this collaboration was signed by Dr. T. Ramasami (who was then acting as DG, CSIR, in addition to his position as Secretary, DST) and the Head of the Helmholtz Association, Germany, during the visit of the German Chancellor to India in October 2007. This is a purely scientific experiment involving people who have a clean record and very high scientific credentials.
The ETC claims that our experiment may harm the marine environment and ecology. Also, our patch may drift toward the Argentine coast This is simply not true. To put the matter in some perspective, iron concentrations even after enhancement at our site will be lower at least by a factor of 3 than those found in many coastal waters. This concentration is so low that most laboratories in the world cannot even measure it accurately. The same applies to algal bloom. The chlorophyll levels will still remain well within the natural range. The circulation is such that if at all the patch drifts, it will be toward the northwest not toward the west. The group is thus scaring and misleading others. The previous experiments have produced no ill effects and there is no reason to believe that ours will.
With kind regards
P.S. Everybody knew about our experiment since the information about it existed on the web and the prestigeous journal SCIENCE had mentioned about it in an article in November 2007. We had sent the information for circulation among the participants of the meeting held at IMO in October 2008. It is intriguing that nobody protested against it until after the ship sailed from Cape Town. Clearly the people spearheading the protest want to draw media attention to themselves.
News Release from ETC Group
Throwing precaution (and iron) to the wind (and waves)
ETC Group joined the chorus of voices, including the German Environment Ministry, expressing its deep regret at the decision of the German Minister of Research to re-authorize the controversial LOHAFEX ocean fertilization expedition. Researchers on board the German vessel RV Polarstern have now begun dumping 6 tons of iron sulphate over 300 square kilometers of open ocean in the Scotia Sea (east of Argentina) to artificially prompt the growth of a large plankton bloom. It will be one of the largest ocean fertilization experiments to date.
The LOHAFEX expedition had been temporarily suspended by German Research Minister, Annette Schavan, at the request of the German Environment Minister, following opposition by civil society groups and experts who said the expedition violated the moratorium on ocean fertilization agreed to last year at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).(1) Over the past weeks, Schavan's staff commissioned documents to justify the expedition. Those hastily assembled documents were released on January 26, along with Minister Schavan's announcement that she was re-authorizing the expedition. In response, the German Environment Ministry re-iterated its opposition to the LOHAFEX expedition, issuing a strong statement (2) criticizing the failure to guarantee independent monitoring and citing concerns expressed by the scientific community, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) around ocean fertilization, which led to the de facto moratorium agreed at last year's CBD meeting.
"We are outraged that Minister Schavan has given a green light to start dumping iron despite concerns expressed by the Environment Minister and a broad coalition of civil society organizations as well as scientists,” said Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group, speaking from the World Social Forum in Belém, Brazil. “This decision shows an astonishing disregard for the decision of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity 96 in which the German government played a key role 96 and will seriously undermine Germany's credibility at future negotiations. It also gives the wrong signal to the geo-engineers who would like to re-engineer our planet for profit.”
The CBD agreement specified that any scientific experiments had to be small scale and within coastal waters. While it is unclear whether 300 square kilometers (about the size of Tobago) represents small scale, the location being targeted is clearly on the high seas and far from the coast. The LOHAFEX researchers have argued that this high seas location counts as coastal waters because some species of plankton found there are also found near the coast. “Applying this creative definition means that much of the planet's oceans could theoretically be re-classified as 'coastal,' rendering the term meaningless," notes ETC's Jim Thomas. "Astonishingly, Minister Schavan appears to have accepted this unusual argument." Thomas adds, "If theGerman government has concerns with the terms of the CBD agreement, they should bring them up through the proper channels for renegotiation." Regrettably the decision to move ahead appears to pre-empt international discussions on the matter that are scheduled to take place in less than two weeks at both the next meeting of the London Convention's Scientific Groups (11-13th February 2009) and the next meeting of the CBD Bureau (13th February 2009).
LOHAFEX is not an isolated case. Environmentalists were alarmed to learn last week (3) of yet another ocean fertilization scheme in the works. This time, its the nitrate-rich fertilizer urea that is expected to be dumped as early as March in the Tasman Sea (between Australia and New Zealand). Operating under the auspices of the University of Sydney's Ocean Technology Group directed by Ian S. F. Jones, the project sponsors are awaiting the Australian government's green light to spread urea in international waters. While done under the auspices of a research institute, Professor Jones is also the front man for the Ocean Nourishment Corporation and is well known for his interest in the potential profits to be made from such projects.
(4) It seems that the caution which informed the CBD's deliberations less than a year ago has been thrown to the wind, and civil society will need to work hard to maintain the moratorium and make sure it is enforced.
For more information contact:
Thomas - ETC Group (Montreal, Canada) firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: +1 514
6674932 Cell: +1 514 5165759
Pat Mooney - ETC Group (Ottawa, Canada) email@example.com Phone: +1 613 2412267 Cell: +1 613 2610688
Kathy Jo Wetter - ETC Group (Durham, NC, USA) firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: +1 919 688 7302
The decision of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD on ocean
fertilization can be found here:
For the statement of the German Environment Ministry:
See Ben Cubby, 93Climate scientists seek a urea moment, Sydney Morning
Herald, January 21, 2009; available online:
4 See, for example, Shoji, K. and Jones, Ian S. F, 93The costing of carbon credits from ocean nourishment plants, Science of the total environment, vol. 277, no1-3, pp. 27-31, 2001.
ETC Group (Montreal)
jim @ etcgroup.org
+1 514 2739994