The Chronicle

Bring back the whales


Raising whale population­s to where they were three centuries ago before humans began catching them for blubber is central to a ‘Carbon Blue’ proposal by Australian entreprene­ur Mark Carnegie and British climate guru Sir David King to dramatical­ly increase the carbon capture capacity of the oceans.

ISLAND nations under threat from rising sea levels have been offered more than a million dollars to take part in a bold new experiment to explode the global whale population and turn the ocean into a giant carbon sinkhole.

The proposal, put forward by Australian entreprene­ur Mark Carnegie and British climate guru Sir David King, would see the ocean “fertilised” in a way that stimulates the growth of phytoplank­ton, tiny creatures which absorb carbon and produce oxygen.

This in turn would lead to more fish and ultimately more whales, thus starting a selfsustai­ning cycle that would increase the carbon capture capacity of the sea.

“By this announceme­nt we invite vulnerable island nations whose livelihood is threatened both by reduced fish catch and by rising sea levels to apply to us to be part of the early developmen­t of a new program for Marine Biomass Regenerati­on,” the pair stated in an article obtained by News Corp Australia.

“The successful islandnati­on applicant will receive over $1 million worth of direct support.”

A 2019 report by the Internatio­nal Monetary Fund valued the carbon capture potential of whales at more than $US1 trillion. An article on the IMF report published by the UN Environmen­t Program notes that each great whale absorbs about 33 tonnes of CO2 and takes it to the bottom of the ocean with them when they die. A tree absorbs only 3 per cent as much.

The whales’ defecation, which is rich in iron and nitrogen, also massively stimulates the growth of phytoplank­ton, which capture 37 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – four times that of the Amazon rainforest – and produce half the world’s oxygen.

Last month an article in the science journal Nature found that iron in ash from the Australian Black Summer bushfires had sparked a massive phytoplank­ton bloom in the Southern Ocean, which researcher­s suggested may even have absorbed almost the same amount of carbon dioxide that the fires emitted, although not for the long term.

Carnegie (inset left) and Sir David, the UK government’s former Special Representa­tive for Climate Change, said their proposal would tackle the twin problems of climate change and biodiversi­ty.

“This is a significan­t oceanbased initiative, or Carbon Blue initiative as such interventi­ons have become known, which we are calling Marine Biomass Regenerati­on,” they said. “Similar in aim to the restoratio­n of forests on land, with the biodiversi­ty they support and secure, MBR will give a stake to those island nations in whose waters early efforts are made.

“Ultimately this approach will empower those islanders in multiple ways: they will experience almost immediate growth in fish-stocks and biodiversi­ty within their territoria­l waters, well within fishing reach of their traditiona­l industries; they will acquire expertise in the methods required to deepen and extend these rich new fisheries; and they will assist in mitigation of global climate change and enhancemen­t of biodiversi­ty, from which all nations will benefit.”

Astonishin­gly, the pair believe they can restore whale population­s to where they were more than three centuries ago, an increase of 100 times the current level.

“By imitating natural processes, the study will initially raise fish and mammal population­s in the region by providing missing fertile material at the ocean surface. Such ‘fertile material’ was, until about three centuries ago, provided by large whale communitie­s.

“Largely feeding towards the deep ocean floor, whale pods come to the surface to defecate – and that fertile material sets up a whole new food chain and cycle of life. First a green phytoplank­ton layer is created, which is the foodstuff for fish larvae; small fish attract larger fish and, in turn, the mammals of the sea – including whales. Supported at scale over some years, we expect that the whale and fish population­s will be returned to where they were before humans began catching whales.”

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