The Case Against Deep Seabed Mining

Oceans matter. They cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface, with over 95 percent of the earth’s surface that can sustain life. The Pacific Ocean covers almost half of the earth’s water surface and about one-third of the total surface area. Oceans capture and store carbon emissions.

The UN dubbed 2021 to 2030 the decade for ocean science for sustainable development.

“Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development” is the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14. Deep seabed mining will not help the world reach that goal.

Research shows that DSM operations could impact the marine environment. DSM operations pose a “significant risk” to ocean ecosystems. A study published earlier this year in the Frontiers in Marine Science journal calls for research on the impacts of deep seabed mining on cetaceans. In another study, researchers found that DSM will impact Pacific tuna fisheries.

The Movement Against Deep Seabed Mining

Pacific region leaders and indigenous peoples want an end to DSM. Pacific region peoples depend on the ocean. The Ocean Call Statement by the Pacific called the ocean “central to life and wellbeing.” The statement called for governments to “support the growing international call for a moratorium on DSM.” Greenpeace organizations created videos of civil society leaders from the Pacific region calling for an end to deep sea mining and projected them in four cities in July 2023 (Mexico City, Mexico, Toronto, Canada, Dover, UK, and Kingston, Jamaica).

Activists delivered a petition with over 1,000 signatories during the International Seabed Authority meeting in July in Kingston, Jamaica, where delegates paused DSM until 2024. The signatories included 34 countries and 56 indigenous groups calling for a total ban on DSM. The European Parliament called for a moratorium on DSM in May 2022.

“We do not have the authority to desecrate what should be untouched and to leave our future generations with nothing,” said Edwin “Ekolu” Lindsey, co-founder and president of Maui Cultural Lands, in a statement. “When the fate of humanity is at stake, each of us has the responsibility to step up and stop this. In the battle between nature and corporate greed, nature should win every time.”

Science and the Seafood Industry Come Together

There is a growing movement against DSM among scientists and the seafood industry. Over 700 marine science and policy experts from over 44 countries signed a statement calling for a pause to deep seabed mining. The signatories called for research “to determine if authorization of DSM can occur without “significant damage” to ocean ecosystems.” Seafood industry groups, including the Global Tuna Alliance, signed a letter calling for a pause on DSM until further research on impacts and regulations are in place.

Some financial investors oppose DSM. Thirty-seven financial institutions, representing more than $3.5 of combined assets, released a statement in June calling on governments to pause DSM until there is research on the environmental, social, and economic risks.

The need for opposition to deep seabed mining continues. Although the ISA paused DSM, delegates could allow it to resume. The ISA opened up an area of over 1.5 million km2, four times the size of Germany, for deep sea exploration by a few companies based in the global north.

Image Credit: under Creative Commons license 

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman, freelance writer/journalist/copyeditor Twitter: @gmcheeseman

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