The Deep Sea May Soon Be Up for Grabs

Date: June 8, 2018

Source: The New York Times

Author: Julie Packard and Chris Scholin

Monterey, Calif. — The rush to exploit the riches of the deep ocean and seafloor is beginning. As pollution, overfishing and climate change sap the productivity of surface waters, many countries and companies are scouting new territory deeper down. This presents a threat the deep ocean has never faced.

Vast, dark and largely unexplored, these overlooked parts of the oceans are rich in marine life, gems, metals, minerals and oil. Stretching from 650 to 3,200 feet below the surface, the mesopelagic — known as the twilight zone because there is so little sunlight — is the first stop for deep ocean exploitation.

With an estimated 10 billion metric tons of marine life, including fish, shrimp and squid, these depths offer a seemingly endless bounty. That’s why fishing nations are looking closely at this region of the sea. As of spring 2017, for instance, Norway had issued 46 new licenses for vessels to fish in the mesopelagic in the previous nine months, according to The Economist. Harvesting just 1 percent of this zone would double our overall fisheries catch, with consequences we have yet to grasp.

The next stop is the seafloor, which represents 71 percent of Earth’s surface. Only about 15 percent of it has been mapped. We know more about the surface of Mars.

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