Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A happy story for Earth Day

Just in time for Earth Day, and courtesy of a link at Instapundit, we find a heartwarming story of a Native American tribe based in British Columbia who've found a way to restore their vanishing salmon fisheries - and outraged the environmental lobby into the bargain.  National Review reports:

In 2012, the British Columbia–based Native American Haida tribe launched an effort to restore the salmon fishery that has provided much of their livelihood for centuries. Acting collectively, the Haida voted to form the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation, financed it with $2.5 million of their own savings, and used it to support the efforts of American scientist-entrepreneur Russ George to demonstrate the feasibility of open-sea mariculture — in this case, the distribution of 120 tons of iron sulfate into the northeast Pacific to stimulate a phytoplankton bloom which in turn would provide ample food for baby salmon.

The verdict is now in on this highly controversial experiment: It worked.

In fact it has been a stunningly over-the-top success. This year, the number of salmon caught in the northeast Pacific more than quadrupled, going from 50 million to 226 million. In the Fraser River, which only once before in history had a salmon run greater than 25 million fish (about 45 million in 2010), the number of salmon increased to 72 million.

. . .

Native Americans bringing back the salmon and preserving their way of life, while combating global warming: One would think that environmentalists would be very pleased.

One would be very wrong. Far from receiving applause for their initiative, the Haida and Mr. George have become the target of rage aimed from every corner of the community seeking to use global warming as a pretext for curtailing human freedom.

. . .

The advent of higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere has been a great boon for the terrestrial biosphere, accelerating the rate of growth of both wild and domestic plants and thereby expanding the food base supporting humans and land animals of every type. Ignoring this, the carbophobes point to the ocean instead, saying that increased levels of carbon dioxide not exploited by biology could lead to acidification. By making the currently barren oceans fertile, however, mariculture would transform this putative problem into an extraordinary opportunity.

Which is precisely why those demanding restraints on carbon emissions and restrictions on fisheries hate mariculture. They hate it for the same reason those demanding constraints in the name of allegedly limited energy resources hate nuclear power. They hate it because it solves a problem they need unsolved.

There's much more at the link.  Recommended reading.

Let's see now:

  • Native American?  Check.
  • Restored and revitalized natural process?  Check.
  • Politically incorrect?  Check.
  • Environmentalists outraged?  Check.

What's not to like?



Rolf said...

I've read about similar experiments elsewhere before, and they have seen mixed results at best from what I've read. It's one of those "looks great on paper" things. Be neat if they found the right circumstances for it to work in practice as well- a large increase in the wild salmon runs in the Pacific NW (Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alaska) would be all sorts of outstanding, and close to my heart as I earned money as a teenager working on my dad's salmon trawler. Sounds good, but I've gotta read the details before I'll be celebrating with anything stronger than a glass of iced tea.

Will said...

I recently read a blog post referring to a fairly recent study that found the centers of the oceans are not barren like was thought. Seems that most of ocean life is not along the coasts.

Strangely enough, I've seen no notice by the environmentalists and their media lackeys about this important info. Imagine that.

Think I saw it on the daily timewaster blog. I've been going through his posts backwards. Im back to the beginning of Dec '13. Don't know how to find it, though.

trailbee said...

I think they're called First Nations, but I could be wrong. The Canadian ones, at least.

Paul, Dammit! said...

Peter- I found this a couple of days late (been at sea), but the science behind this, while not 'settled' is poor. First Nations people aren't going to care about secondary impacts, chances are, but they should.

Allochthanous nutrient import (bringing in energy subsidies from outside the ecosystem) is relatively well-understood, and artificial micronutrient import is not as well understood, but there are some obvious problems. Iron is a limiting factor, especially in pristine waters, for nutrient uptake- to pull out the nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous that's available. The problem is, when you create an algal bloom in an area that doesn't have algal blooms, you have oxygen production during the day (photosynthesis), but that oxygen gets consumed after the sun peaks for the day. End result is that oxygen becomes scarce in the algal bloom where the food is. water doesn't carry oxygen for crap. 5mg per liter at absolute best. Drop that to 4,3, or 2 or even 0, and you've got a 'dead zone,' and that's very easy to do when you dump iron in an environment where algae blooms are not natural. Everything else that isn't a highly-migratory specie, such as pacific cod and pollack (the largest fishery in the world currently), won't run out of the oxygen-deficient zone. They're either doomed or going to experience stress and reduced growth rates in that area at best. and in the case of the cod and pollack, unemployment and impotent tears for those who like sashimi and fish sticks. End result is a cascade effect. Consider that marshes, deltas and other fresh-water outlets are already lower-oxygen environments-

One other problem- the volume of salmon runs are super-sensitive to disturbance- it's not unusual for massive swings and population crashes. There wasn't any sort of analysis to show correlation between the iron dump and population increase. It was an example of magical thinking at its best. "It Just Works" is also the mantra for the correlation between female circumcision and female marital fidelity in Muslim lands.

Russ George is a snake oil salesman, and that's another problem. He made a tidy living running around on a grant where he tried to raise support for his corporation's attempt to do the same thing in the Gulf Stream, which was VERY easy to show would create more harm than good for everyone but Russ George. Perhaps I'm biased. I don't like seeing a charlatan and fraud succeed.

I applaud almost any effort to cut unnecessary governmental involvement in self-management, but this is a case where the province was in the right to never consider doing something so dumb. The fact that it didn't cause a fish kill isn't sufficient justification to repeat it.

Peter said...

Thanks, Paul. I've republished your comment in a post on its own, to share it more widely. See: