Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons

Here’s a letter from Tim who has given us a great deal of very good advice for a long time.

tp medal

Tim Parsons Medal
Canada’s highest award in ocean science

If you want to win the Nobel Prize in Ocean Science in Canada you want to win The Tim Parson’s Medal!

Russ: I sent this letter to the Times Colonist in reply to their article – Tim

Subject: Iron dust trial

Judith Lavoie’s article on the Haida Gwaii’s dumping of a 100 tons of iron sulphate into the ocean fails to address the primary purpose of this experiment as far as fish habitat is concerned. While I agree that the procedure was scientifically hasty and controversial, the purpose of enhancing salmon returns by increasing plankton production has considerable justification. There are many published scientific papers showing a positive correlation between phytoplankton abundance and fish production, although this “bottom-up” control of fish production is not used by many fisheries scientists engaged only in “population dynamics” management.

In the 1960s, I organized and started a nutrient enrichment program on Great Central Lake which resulted in an approximate seven-fold increase in sockeye salmon returns to the lake, continuing for many years. The statement by Andrew Weaver that there is no proof that plankton blooms initiated by fertilization has an effect on salmon production, is not true. In the Gulf of Alaska, volcanic emissions in 1958 and 2008 both resulted in enormous sockeye salmon returns; in the latter year, this was attributable to a bloom of diatoms, caused by iron from a volcano. Diatoms are the clover of the sea, in that most of the world’s largest fisheries in upwelled areas are based on food chains initiated by diatom growth. However, in the Gulf of Alaska, iron, which is an essential nutrient for diatom growth, is generally lacking.

Thus the logic behind the Haida Gwaii’s experiment, as far as it concerns enhanced sockeye salmon production, is justifiable. Their timing and positioning of the iron dumping was meant to coincide with the migration of young fish into the ocean. Whether they achieved this precise timing and location will not be known for two years, when the 2012 adults return. Further, from the initial ocean monitoring , any potential risk of ecological damage, does not appear to have occurred.

Tim Parsons, Prof.Em. Dept.Earth Ocean.Atmos.Sci. UBC, Vancouver

His permission for us to use the letter.

Yes, please use the letter as you like. It has not appeared in the TC this morning although they have published a somewhat derogatory letter by a person unknown to me – cheers Tim


Read Tim’s paper on the volcano and the salmon miracle run of 2010.