Civil society reacts to reports of a catalog of criticism levelled at the International Seabed Authority and calls for an immediate independent review

Date: April 19, 2022


An article which appeared in the LA Times today has raised serious concerns about the conduct, integrity and effectiveness of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the intergovernmental body charged by the UN with safeguarding the deep ocean. 

NGOs concerned with ocean protection have said the article should send a wave of alarm through the international community about the future of the deep sea and called on the UN Secretary General to urgently commission an independent review focused on how we can achieve proper protection for the deep sea and its vital role in climate mitigation and food security.

Last month, the ISA Council met in Kingston, Jamaica, to negotiate regulations which, if approved, would see the deep ocean opened for commercial mining as soon as July 2023. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition advocated for deep sea protection throughout the negotiations, consistently raising concerns about the ISA’s non-transparent decision-making processes, conflicts of interest and its extractive mindset.  

Far from being a body working to protect the deep seabed, our global commons, the ISA is operating as a miners’ club, pushing for finalization of regulations so that commercial strip-mining of the deep can begin. It is not fit for purpose and this new article underlines that. It must be independently investigated and the rush to mine that it spearheads, should be stopped.

Duncan Currie, DSCC

Rather than delivering benefits to all of humanity, if deep-sea mining were to go ahead, it would only serve to financially benefit a handful of companies in the global North whilst causing large scale irreversible environmental destruction and a loss of critical ecosystem services for present and future generations. It could also result in a loss of potential medicines, disturb critical carbon stocks locked away in the deep, and may have impacts on commercial fisheries. Local groups and communities as well as a collective of leaders in the Pacific region are calling for a ban on mining the deep sea, recognizing the risks it poses to their livelihoods and historical and cultural connection to a living ocean.

The ISA must be a body that all humankind can trust to represent the interests of the many, not the few. It needs to be fundamentally reformed to achieve this: it needs to become the body that protects the deep ocean and its contribution to all humankind, not the body that exploits it.

Matthew Gianni, DSCC

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