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'So long and thanks for all the plankton,' say Antarctic whales

by Sail-World on 13 Mar 2009
Polarstern and friends .. .
The flagship German research vessel of the European Union and her science crew of 50 scientists from Germany, India, and around the world have just finished a controversial project to give iron to the Antarctic Ocean, which they claim has been depleted from the world's oceans by CO2 emissions. Here they tell the story.

The Polarstern departed from its Southern Ocean pasture a day or so ago. The ship and her dedicated scientists had prescribed and on January 27th administered 10 tonnes of iron to a several hundred sq. kilometer patch of ocean.

The iron was just the tonic the ocean needed and within days a verdant ocean pasture began to bloom. Ocean satellites picked up an image of the bloom on Valentines Day, what better gift for Mother Earth, than her ocean restored and growing nutritious plankton for every form of sea life from tiny krill to the great whales and everything in between fish, penguins, seals, and seabirds.

The project, years in planning, had run into a brief tempest and delays whipped up by the spin of dark green organizations as it was about to begin.

Claims that the work would be in violation of some mysterious laws, were quickly proven to be false. Those spinning the claims were the same dark greens who in many statements have declared that they are against mitigation of climate changing CO2 that involves the production of carbon offset credits.

As EU president Vaclav Klaus stated earlier this week, environmentalists are less concerned about any crisis posed by global warming than they are eager to command human behavior and restrict economic activity.

The EU president has that right even though his skepticism on the topic of global warming, wrought by the obvious casting of the topic as a political fodder by the dark greens, is ill advised.

He's hardly alone in his choosing to oppose the idea of climate change when faced with such obvious politicization of the important topic. More intelligent and caring leaders prevailed in Germany reversing a nefarious order by German environment minister that threatened to stop the project as the ship arrived in mid January in the Southern Ocean.

Ocean replenishment and restoration as proven possible by this experiment might remove seven times as much CO2 from the air as the Kyoto Protocol calls for. The oceans pastures have been decimated by high CO2 resulting in billions of tonnes of lost plant life in just a few decades.

Replenishing the mineral micro-nutrients, esp. iron, can restore those pastures and turn billions of tonnes of CO2 into ocean life instead of acidifying ocean death.

Here at Planktos Science we are tickled green that the LohaFex ocean replenishment and restoration project has gone so well. The tonnes of iron replenished are now growing what will be millions of tonnes of plankton biomass which in turn will produce hundreds of thousands of tonnes of krill and other zooplankton.

The next step on that food chain are the baby calves of the Southern Ocean Great Whales as the new pasture is within their traditional nursery. The food chain formula tells us to expect tens of thousands of tonnes of whales being nourished from this wonderful gesture led by Chief Scientists Victor Smetacek and Wajih Naqvi, our most heartfelt thanks to you both.

For more information on ocean replenishment and restoration visit


Both German and Indian scientists were involved in the controversial project. Here is the other side of the story, as other marine scientists, involved in a recent conference in Kochi ‘Marine Ecosystems ‘MECOS-09’ claimed that the ocean fertilisation experiment needed much more discussion. Here is the report from Kochi:

There is need for a national debate on whether India should be involved in such a project, was the reaction of several scientists who participated in the four-day international symposium on which concluded recently in Kochi.

The scientists participating in the marine ecosystem conference said that the experiments which include addition of trace amounts of iron which leads to rapid algal growth leading to phytoplanktons blooms.

'When I spoke about the issue at a conference in Dhaka, the participants almost threw me out. So strong was their reaction,' said E Vivekanandan, senior scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi. 'The Antarctica ocean is rich with the nutrients nitrate, phosphate and silicon, but phytoplankton growth is limited by the supply of iron which is a crucial ingredient of all organisms.

'Iron is highly insoluble in sea water so it is quickly lost in sinking particles. Addition of trace amounts of iron to these waters, whether from natural sources or by artificial iron fertilisation, result in the rapid algal growth leading to development of phytoplankton blooms,' said S Prasanna Kumar of the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa.

LOHAFEX is a joint project developed by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Germany, and the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO).

According to Ashish Fernandes, Oceans Campaign, Greenpeace India, the LOHAFEX experiment is not just a bad idea, it is also illegal and a clear violation of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) moratorium on ocean fertilisation passed last year in May.

That the German and Indian governments, both signatories to the CBD and both supporters of the moratorium are now involved in this illegal experiment defies logic, he said. The joint scientific team conducted the iron fertilisation experiment till March 17 aboard the German research vessel ‘Polarstern’.

The expedition took off from Cape Town on January 7 with a team of 48 scientists, including 29 from the India. The experiment had been put on hold by the German government following protests from environmental groups.

LOHAFEX, (Loha is the Hindi word for iron, Fertilisation EXperiment) is part of the Memorandum of Understanding between the AWI and the NIO signed by the heads of their respective parent organisations, the Helmholtz Association, Germany, and the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research.


Letter from Reader:

Sender: Ben Dickson

Message: I am annoyed at your article. It ignores the proven negatives of oceanic fertilization, which are essentially mass algae blooms. I find it incomprehensible that no one considers that one of the largest marine environmental disasters, the Gulf-of-Mexico dead zone, is caused directly by fertilization coming off the Mississippi river. The result of this experiment en-masse is more oxygen dead zones.

Furthermore, the 'acidic death' comment ticks me off. Ocean acidification from carbon dioxide requires that the basic scientific knowledge buffers to be false. The ocean has just too many salts to drastically alter the pH of the system. Oceanic life evolved in periods where CO2 was at ten times current levels and they were fine. Greenhouse experiments have shown no negative side effects on any oceanic life that they have tested at 1000 ppm. Don't take my word for it. I ask you to find a single actual study (not supposition, an actual observation-based experiment) that shows that high CO2 concentrations will negatively affect ocean life. There may be decent reasons to advocate carbon regulation, but that is not one of them.

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