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Ocean fertilisation: Science and regulation


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Mayo-Ramsay, JP 2011 , 'Ocean fertilisation: Science and regulation ', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The threat of climate change may be the greatest social and environmental
challenge of our time. Yet if the increase in warming is to be stabilised, then a
reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is needed. Sink technologies
such as ocean fertilisation claim to do this by stimulating phytoplankton to grow
into massive blooms, thereby drawing down large amounts of CO2 from the
atmosphere into the deep ocean. But the science is unproven and concerns have
been raised, not only about its feasibility, but also the environmental and legal
implications. This thesis examines the process of ocean fertilisation and the
capacity and effectiveness of current international and domestic legal regimes to
regulate it. The science and feasibility of ocean fertilisation, primarily as a carbon
mitigation measure, but also for carbon trading and seafood production, were
considered. Three case studies were used as models to test how each legal
instrument could be applied to the selected criteria to measure either capacity or
effectiveness. Criteria were drawn from two critical areas of concern — the
protection of the environment and enforcement. The research established that
current Australian domestic law would most likely have adequate checks and
balances to regulate ocean fertilisation activities within Australia’s exclusive
economic zone and territorial waters, with the exception of some external
territories where compliance and enforcement may be problematic. The
international law was found to be less effective; the main concern was the use of
flags of convenience to bypass regulation on the high seas. Areas of conflict
were found, particularly between ocean fertilisation for scientific research and
commercial purposes. While there are no existing international legal instruments
for ocean fertilisation generally, there is a framework for the assessment of ocean
fertilisation for scientific research, leaving the future of commercial ocean
fertilisation operations still undetermined. A model for the development of a
new legal instrument to regulate ocean fertilisation activities, incorporating both
research and commercial applications, was suggested.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Mayo-Ramsay, JP
Keywords: Ocean fertilization, fertilization, law, climate change
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