Date: December 5, 2022

Governments around the world have the opportunity to halt the loss of nature at a UN biodiversity conference from 7-19 December 2022. Throughout the 15th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, or CBD COP15, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition remind decision makers on Deep Day not to ignore the largest biome on Earth and the threats it faces.

COP15 is a vital chance for nations to agree to a comprehensive and ambitious set of biodiversity targets referred to as the Global Biodiversity Framework. In order to reach the 2050 vision of a world living in harmony with nature, we must achieve key goals and targets to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. 

In recent years, governments have repeatedly committed to halt and reverse the loss of marine biodiversity; take action to restore degraded ecosystems; and build the resilience of marine ecosystems (including in the deep sea) to better withstand impacts of climate change and reinforce their capacity to act as carbon sinks. However, action continues to lag behind commitments. 

In 2004, CBD COP7 called on governments to protect the biodiversity of seamounts – hotspots for life in the deep and home to ancient corals and a range of fish and marine mammals – from destructive practices. Two years later, governments at the United Nations General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution committing themselves to taking a series of measures to better manage deep-sea fisheries on the high seas to protect biodiversity. Since 2004, much has been done to implement the COP7 commitments and the UNGA resolutions but vital action is still needed. Destructive deep-sea bottom trawl fishing is still permitted on many seamounts and oceanic ridge systems on the high seas, particularly in the Northwest and Southwest Pacific and the Southern Indian Ocean.

A new threat is also emerging: deep-sea mining. While governments commit to tackle the dual biodiversity and climate crises, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) have issued 31 licenses for deep-sea mineral exploration, covering an area twice the size of France. The ISA is poised to begin taking applications to authorize large-scale commercial deep-sea mining as early as July 2023. This is despite continued, urgent warning from scientists that biodiversity loss would be unavoidable and irreversible on human timescales if the industry were to go ahead. Over 600 scientists have called for a pause on deep-sea mining, given “the direct loss of unique and ecologically important species and populations as a result of the degradation, destruction or elimination of seafloor habitat, many before they have been discovered and understood” likely to be caused. Support for a halt on deep-sea mining continues to grow beyond the scientific community, including governments, parliamentarians, businesses,  financial institutions, civil society, fisheries organizations, and coastal and Indigenous communities.

In order to achieve a successful conference outcome that ensures we protect life in the ocean from top to bottom.

  • The DSCC join 15 eNGOs in calling for a strengthening of the draft CBD document which currently calls on governments to “minimize and mitigate the impacts of deep-sea mining on marine and coastal biodiversity as well as its impacts on other uses of the marine environment.” 
    • Given the risks deep-sea mining poses to biodiversity and climate, we call on decision makers to adopt the recommendation proposed by Jordan and Denmark, which ‘urges’ parties and invites other governments to ‘prohibit any deep seabed mining that may cause loss of biodiversity, damage to the flora and fauna of the marine environment, degradation of the resilience of marine ecosystems and ecosystem services including carbon sequestration, or compromise the ecological integrity of deep-sea and open ocean ecosystems.’
    • The DSCC also urges the adoption of a new subparagraph calling for reform of the ISA and countries to call for a moratorium on deep-sea mining
  • The DSCC call on decision makers to use COP15 as an opportunity to reiterate and reinforce the commitment made at COP7 to protect seamounts and vulnerable marine ecosystems and call on the UNGA to ‘finish the job’. We urge governments to call for:
    • A prohibition on bottom trawling on seamounts and other underwater features in areas beyond national jurisdiction;
    • An elimination of the threat of destructive fishing practices to the biodiversity of seamounts, hydrothermal vents, cold-water corals and other vulnerable ecosystems in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Less global attention has been paid to the CBD COP15, taking place in Montreal, Canada over the next two weeks, than the recent UNFCCC climate conference (COP27), but the need to address biodiversity loss as well as climate change cannot be overstated. One crisis cannot be effectively addressed without addressing (or worse, at the expense of) the other.

We are at a critical moment for our planet. The DSCC is working hard to ensure we have the political momentum at COP15 for a successful outcome that effectively protects our ocean from top to bottom.

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