A controversial ocean-fertilization experiment conducted off the north coast of Haida Gwaii has led to a legal battle over scientific data, computer hard drives and 400 missing plankton samples.
In an application filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Russ George, who initiated the ocean-dumping project in 2012 in an attempt to stimulate plankton blooms, seeks to stop the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. from kicking him out of the business and sharing data gathered during the experiment.
Mr. George, who describes himself as an “ocean scientist and businessman,” was removed from the company board last May after the ocean fertilization project came under fire internationally as a rogue scientific experiment.
In his application to court, Mr. George claims that he was “wrongly frozen out of his right to direct management of HSRC,” and that the actions of the board are “oppressive and unduly prejudicial” to his rights and interests.
He seeks an order that the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. halt plans for an upcoming board meeting and provide him with “immediate … unrestricted access” to all its business records and data.
Mr. George also asks the courts to stop the company from signing a carbon offset agreement with a firm identified in court documents as Blue Carbon Solutions Inc., because it “is an unlawful effort to appropriate business” from him.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission questioned the credibility of the project in late 2012 and Environment Canada launched an investigation amidst claims that in dumping 100 tonnes of iron sulphate to stimulate plankton growth, the experiment may have polluted the ocean.
The proponents have long defended their experiment, pointing out that a large amount of data was collected and that both ocean water sampling and satellite images confirmed the dumping had triggered a massive plankton bloom.
In his application Mr. George says he was wrongly accused of taking data with him when he left the corporate offices.
When the experiment was formulated, the plan was to increase feed for salmon migrating past Haida Gwaii and at the same time to demonstrate the ability of enhanced plankton blooms to suck carbon out of the atmosphere.
“The project was extraordinarily successful in respect of its dual objectives,” states Mr. George in an affidavit.
He says the iron sulphate, which was dumped in an ocean eddy about 200 kilometres north of Haida Gwaii, led to “the massive increase in feedstock available for fish consumption in the open ocean … [and] the sequestration of extraordinarily large amounts of carbon dioxide in the deep ocean.”
Mr. George said he was advised last May that the company “was without funds to pay its rent” and so directors decided to move the assets of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. to avoid possible seizure by the landlord.
On behalf of his own company, Ocean Pastures Inc., Mr. George said he “took possession of certain computers, assets and samples that belonged to OPC and HSRC.”
He said an HSRC director, Jason McNamee, “feigned objection to the safekeeping of the samples.”
Included in the court file is a Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. board resolution terminating Mr. George as a company director because he “removed the computer file server” from the head office and “removed all of the plankton samples … about 400 1 litre samples in total.”
The resolution states the samples were moved “to an undisclosed location without the consent or authorization of a company director or officer.”
Mr. McNamee declined comment Monday because the matter is before the courts. The Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. has not yet made a response to Mr. George’s application, which was filed last Friday.
Mr. McNamee has been attending science conferences and community meetings recently, advocating continued research on ocean fertilization.