As part of their attack upon the Haida mariculture experiment, the global-warming activists have been quick to dismiss its scientific value. Actual fishery scientists, however, have viewed it with considerable interest. “While I agree that the procedure was scientifically hasty and controversial, the purpose of enhancing salmon returns by increasing plankton production has considerable justification,” Timothy Parsons, professor emeritus of fisheries science at the University of British Columbia, told the Vancouver Sun. According to Parsons, the waters of the Gulf of Alaska are so nutrient-poor that they are a “virtual desert dominated by jelly fish.” But iron-rich volcanic dust stimulates growth of diatoms, a form of algae that he describes as “the clover of the sea.” As a result, volcanic eruptions over the Gulf of Alaska in 1958 and 2008 “both resulted in enormous sockeye-salmon returns.”
As to the canard, advanced by Klein and others demanding U.N. prohibitions, that open-sea mariculture could lead to “dead zones,” George answered it forcefully in an interview with Scientific American, saying: “Not in any pelagic [open-ocean] environment, [only] in constrained coastal regions. Is there a single solitary published report based on experimental observations other than the hypothetical? We’ve looked. We’ve not found it.”
The Haida explain their position as follows:
In 2010 something wonderful happened that focused our attention on the collapse of the salmon pastures and the salmon. The runs of sockeye salmon that were expected to return to the Fraser River in 2010 were forecast to be the lowest numbers in all of history. Out of the blue, instead of the dwindling 1 million sockeye expected the world watched in amazement as 40 million of the fish returned, the largest sockeye return in all of the historical record. . . .
What we know now [to be] the reason for the historic 2010 sockeye run is that during the summer of 2008 as the young salmon swam to their ocean pastures a volcano erupted in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. For a few days the volcano erupted throwing a vast cloud of volcanic dust into the air. Airline flights were re-routed and cancelled due to this thick cloud of mineral dust. As the dust drifted in the wind and settled onto the Northeast Pacific the life-giving mineral micro-nutrients it carried [were] . . . nourishing and restoring the ocean pasture as vast blooms of plankton turned the ocean from blue to green. The young salmon of 2008 arriving on these rich pastures were nourished, survived in great numbers, and gained strength and endurance to continue the all-important ocean cycle of their life. If there were question that the fortuitous volcanic dust was responsible for the apparent cause-and-effect benefit to the sockeye salmon one only needs to look to the second-largest sockeye-salmon return in history. That second-largest run of sockeye was the 1958 return which followed two years on the heel of another rare Aleutian volcanic eruption. We know now that for the sockeye salmon who graze our ocean pastures the proverb ‘all we are is dust in the wind’ could not be more true.
As the people of Old Massett who have long sought to live in harmony with land and sea a simple truth has become apparent. We must rekindle our stewardship of our ocean pastures; it is a cultural, spiritual, and practical imperative. The Haida people and culture would never have flourished as it has for millennia without the relationship we have with the salmon and the sea. Modern science is helping show us the path we must take.