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imageOther issues must also be addressed: There's serious interest in large-scale fertilization for fisheries and carbon tax credits. There are research proposals for private funding of leading oceanographers. There are uneasy and poorly understood relationships between scientists and commercial interests. Plenty of oceanographers are uncomfortable with the growing perception that modest enrichment experiments are harmless. This is the slippery slope argument.

We as practicing oceanographers don't know where scientific experiments stop and become demonstration projects for commercial application. There's been no broad scientific assessment on ocean fertilization since 1991. The alliances between research oceanographers and private ventures are developing, and the scientific concerns need to be addressed. Concerns can certainly rise about independence of proprietary data.

imageAnother big question is, if a major investment is put into research on these issues, will this divert the resources and focus of a small research community so that oceanographers spend their time--and they've got only so much time in the day--studying these processes, when perhaps the time would be better spent on a broader approach to understanding how the ocean works in an atmosphere-climate system?

Another developing issue is that hybrid fertilization experiments including scientists and commercial interests will at some point transition into routine commercial fertilization before any guidelines are established.

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This group is going to meet behind closed doors and it will be given the mandate of recommending pretty much whatever it wants. One possible recommendation is that a major international science symposium be established. I think there's an excellent reason for doing that.

The group can discuss and make recommendations on the future of ocean fertilization research, perhaps considering scenarios for the many different ways alliances could be set up. There could be some discussion of what the scope of research topics should be. Should people ask specifically, what happens when we throw this in the water, in this place? The group can make recommendations, or at least distribute information, on where we stand with respect to policy and law, but if there's a need to clarify this, perhaps the group could recommend that the advisory committee of the London Convention look into this.

imageThe group could prepare a position statement -- and it might not be a unanimous statement--on ocean fertilization, perhaps a statement of principles recommended by people participating in the research.

It's possible the group could revisit the position that was taken in 1991 on large-scale ocean manipulation. The point is that it's up to us--meaning the group that's here for the workshop--to begin this process, and I hope it to come up with some sort of a statement to move us along the next step on this important problem.

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