kamchatka volcano

Salmon Hope Sent By Heavenly Russian Volcano

The Russian super-volcano Klyuchevskoy began erupting April 03 sending a blessing of mineral rich volcanic ash to the south-east dusting the vital ocean salmon pastures of the NW Pacific.

The timing is nearly perfect as vital ocean pastures will be revived and bloom just as hundreds of millions of baby salmon from the rivers of Eastern Russia and Asia are swimming onto those pastures.

The salmon fingerlings will find a freshly restored and thriving pasture has replaced what have become in recent decades ever more desert-like ocean pastures decimated by the effects of high and rising CO2 and incapable of sustaining salmon in abundance.

Image above Klyuchevskoy eruption as photographed by Space Station Astronauts April 03, 2016

There is good cause for optimism and hope regarding this on-going volcanic eruption. That hope is supported by two events of recent years where the fish were helped and came back not at near extinction level but rather in historic abundance!  The first of these two events took place in the late summer of 2008 a near-by volcano on the Alaskan Aleutian Islands, Kasatochi, erupted and for a few days sent a similar plume of ash to the south-east onto the salmon pastures of the NE Pacific.


Kasatochi volcanic bloom – plankton blooming in the NE Pacific – top image is 2007 without volcanic ash- bottom image shows same ocean pasture in a super-abundant dust enriched bloom

While this region of the North Pacific is legendary for being enshrouded in clouds most of the year a few satellite glimpses of the effect of the Kastochi volcanic ash were seen as the NE Pacific ocean pastures produce a rich nourishing and vast bloom of plankton. No one was really paying much attention and no oceanographic research boats went out to study the effects of the dusted and thriving ocean pasture.

Two years later, 2010, in Western Canada the government had commissioned a Royal Commission to investigate why the iconic Sockeye Salmon of British Columbia seemed to be nearing extinction. All of the experts had, in sworn testimony before the judge, forecast that only 1.2 million of the gorgeous scarlet Sockeye salmon would return from their NE Pacific salmon pastures to spawn that year. News reports were non-stop doom and gloom.

While Canadian Supreme Court Justice Cohen was commanding by experts to try to find the reason for the demise of salmon something completely unexpected, and wonderful, happened. By the way Judge Cohen ended up spending more than $37 million on his hearings which did absolutely nothing to help the salmon whose real crisis is they are starving at sea. Read the Cohen report here.

But what did the fish have to say.

Instead of the 1 million Sockeye expected upwards of 40 million of the beautiful fish returned to the Fraser River at Vancouver, British Columbia while Judge Cohen was listening to his witnesses and experts. This was a return of Sockeye not at near extinction levels but in numbers equal to the largest returns of salmon in all of history. Those fish survived and thrived as abundant dusted ocean pastures and  plankton repurposed CO2 into becoming new life in the oceans. I even wrote a song and produced a video with musician friends about the miracle of the volcanic salmon – 40 Million Salmon Can’t Be Wrong.

Volcanos Only Rarely Dust The Ocean At The Right Time and Place

Two previous volcanos were perfectly timed and their ash fell on ocean pastures that would put the ash minerals to good use. One was in the early 1950’s and the other in the 1920’s.  These perfectly timed volcanic dustings are few and far between. Tragically the NE Pacific ocean salmon pasture has once again fallen into a terrible state of collapse, last year, 2015, saw the lowest number of Sockeye salmon return to the Fraser River ever, even worse that the near extinction event levels that had resulted in the Royal Commission of 2010.

Following the record volcanic salmon return of 2010 my work which had begun years earlier to develop and deliver methods and technologies to restore ocean pastures around the world became even more focused on the North Pacific Salmon pastures. After years of work in collaboration with Canadian government ministries, scientists in academia, and native people in the region I was ready to try a grand experiment. If we dusted a large ocean pasture of some 10,000 km2 with vital mineral dust, would it safely and sustainably restore that ocean pasture. Was it possible to intentionally restore and revive such a vast pasture targeting salmon in the region and in doing so help the baby fish that inhabited that pasture to survive and thrive and swim back home to us in large numbers.

Restoring Life To A Dying Ocean


Deploying our MocNess multi-net plankton sampling net system from my research vessel Ocean Pearl, a task done many times every day and night to study our ocean pasture before, during, and after restoration

By July of 2012 I was ready, I had chartered a large fishing vessel – the Ocean Pearl, the same vessel frequently chartered by Canada’s Fisheries and Oceans to conduct research voyages in the NE Pacific. We loaded the Ocean Pearl with 100 tonnes of vital mineral rich dust and set sail to a region of the Pacific hundreds of miles out to sea in the Gulf of Alaska. The home and pasture of both the Pink Salmon and Sockeye salmon. As we sprinkled our treasured load of ‘simulated volcanic ash’ onto our ocean pastures over the course of weeks the ocean turned from a lifeless blue to a life filled green. Some of my friends now refer to my dusting of that ocean pasture the volcano Russatochi 🙂

Where before our work we studied and collected a vast library of oceanographic data we observed precious few living things in that barren ocean pasture. We might see one or a few seabirds on any given day, but never large numbers. Every few days we saw one or perhaps at most two whales sending their misty spumes into the air. And we were fishing constantly as well as conducting extensive plankton trawls and data collection – very little life was apparent.

In the days and weeks that followed our success at creating a vast thriving ocean pasture blooming in abundance with all manner of plankton everything changed. We began seeing seabirds not in ones and twos but number in the thousands perhaps tens of thousands. One particular morning I was on deck as the dawn was breaking and flying in great circles around the brightly illuminated ship were flocks of thousand of seabirds, their morning birdsong drowned out the roar of the ships mighty diesel engines. Every day we saw great herds of whales often counted by us by the score not mere ones or twos.

One day the captain of the ship who in his early 70’s had spent 50 years in this ocean called me excitedly to the side window of the bridge deck. There he excitedly pointed to two mother Fin Whales with calves saying, “Look, look, they are coming right up to side of the boat… look they are looking us right in the eye… they’re smiling at us.”  Fin whales are known as the shyest of all whales but these had decided we were their friends, after all we had brought their ocean pasture to a condition of health and abundance rarely seen in recent decades.

We were able to catch salmon with fishing rods from the deck of the boat and even more surprisingly in this incredibly cold northern ocean vast schools of albacore tuna arrived on my restored ocean pasture. My and their ocean world had become a ‘Garden of Eden.’ It was a humbling experience and I thought back to my tutorial by the master ocean scientist, John Martin, who proposed in the 1980’s that we not only could but must work to restore our dwindling ocean pastures.

john martin

John Martin – My Mentor and The Original Iron Man – click to read more


John died unexpectedly of cancer just days before his first large ocean restoration experiment IronEx I was performed in the desolate ocean desert, the clearest (and most lifeless) water on earth west of South America in the early 1990’s. Over two decades many small ocean pasture restoration experiments were performed by consortia of international oceean science institutes spending a quarter of a billion dollars.


Those consortia have always supported Martin’s original call for a large scale trial project covering at least 10,000 km2 but the consortia were chiefly focused on rasing astronomical research budgets. Thier ‘research’ plan like committees designing a horse ended up with an ultra-expensive camel plan requiring $200 million to undertake. They were never willing or able to get their shit together to full-fill John Martin’s dream of helping to restore ocean pastures and to bring back the fish. I was and am happy that through my decades of work I was finally able to make his dream come true.

What happened as a result of Russatochi?

The year following my work to restore the salmon pastures of the NE Pacific the forecast for the catch of Pink Salmon, the most abundant of 5 species of salmon in Alaska, was that between 50-52 million ‘Pinks” would be caught. That prediction made everyone happy, it meant a very good catch!

sitka news salmon story

My 2012 ocean pasture replenishment and restoration work in the NE Pacific returned the ocean to life as seen in the largest catch of salmon in all of history in Alaska the next year. click to read more

But unexpectedly to most there were a lot more of my pasture fed Pink Salmon than the ‘authorities’ could ever know. When the fishing began it was immediately reported that the salmon were everywhere in never before seen abundance.

By the time the catch season had ended at least 226 million Pink salmon had swum into the nets and into the hands of Alaska fishers, fish processors, and into the mouths of both humans and marine life in the largest numbers in all of history.

Join me in cheering this Russian volcano on to deliver vital mineral micronutrient rich ash to the dying ocean pastures of the NW Pacific.