Deep-sea News (17-24 July)

Date: July 26, 2023

Check out the top stories from the deep, taken from coverage between 17-24 July 2023

Deep sea mining talks – restrictions threat

Source: Ecologist

Author: Catherine Early

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) has published wide-ranging restrictions for campaigners and media, banning protests inside the venue, or using parody and satire to draw attention to their cause, under threat of being ejected from the negotiations.

A seven-page document was published on the ISA’s website, listing the rules all participants must adhere to during the negotiations. These include “activities unrelated to the mandate of the authority or its programmed activities” including “non-authorised actions, demonstrations or protests and other political acts”. Peaceful public demonstrations are to be allowed at an off-site venue, to be managed by Jamaican authorities, it states. Only ISA-approved documents can be distributed inside the venue, and only its staff are allowed to hand such materials out. A 2022 study concluded that the authority “overlooked” its obligations to human rights law when it came to public participation and lacked transparency.

As prospect of unregulated deep-sea mining looms, scientists sound the alarm

Source: Science

Author: Erik Stokstad

So much remains unknown about deep-sea ecosystems and how mining operations might harm them. Scientists say mining operations could cause irreversible damage to the habitat because the nodules can take millions of years to form.

“The ISA has just passed into uncharted territory,” says Matthew Gianni, a policy adviser for the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition who attended the meeting in Kingston, Jamaica. It’s a situation that could put the health of deep-sea ecosystems at risk – especially because so much remains unknown. One key question that remains, Gianni says, is whether any damage to deep-sea species and ecosystems would be permitted and, if so, how much it could be mitigated or offset.

At International Deep Sea Mining Meeting, Debate Moves Behind Closed Doors

Source: Bloomberg

Author: Todd Woody

Delegates to the UN-affiliated organization that regulates seabed mining, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), cut a livestream of their negotiations and moved the crucial negotiations out of the public eye, underscoring the changes the annual meeting has seen over the years.

While delegates negotiated behind closed doors, observers from environmental groups huddled in conversation outside the Council chambers at the Jamaica Conference Center, a sort of tropical UN. A growing number of the Authority’s 168 member nations (plus the European Union) are calling for a moratorium or pause on deep sea mining due to a severe lack of scientific knowledge about the seabed ecosystems targeted for exploitation. For decades, the ISA had toiled away out of sight and out of mind writing rules for an industry that seemed far in the future, and Louisa Casson, a Greenpeace campaigner, worries a compromise could commit the ISA to reviewing mining license applications by a certain date even if regulations still aren’t in place.

The slow death of a 200-year-old fish

Source: Stuff

Author: Andrea Vance

Orange roughy is prized for its pure white, tender flesh. Having been overfished in the 1970s, drastic catch reductions were imposed and fisheries closed to allow populations to recover. But now it seems the recovery of the valuable deep-sea fish wasn’t as successful as first thought.

Barry Weeber, of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, says the new data suggests stocks were not as healthy as suggested by the earlier stock assessment, and data remains “patchy.’ A review of sustainability measures revealed a “flat or declining trend” – and the Ministry has also re-evaluated a previous assessment from 2020 because the data is inconsistent with this year’s findings. “I’ve been following orange roughy since the late 80s, and the same mistakes are made over and over again,” Weeber said. Greenpeace NZ oceans campaigner Ellie Hooper says the data shows urgent action is needed.

Pacific Seabed Mining Delayed as International Agency Finalizes Rules

Source: The New York Times

Author: Eric Lipton

The start of industrial-scale seabed mining to extract car battery metals from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean has been delayed, after the International Seabed Authority (ISA) concluded that it needed more time to finalize mining rules.

The length of this delay is unknown. As it now stands, the ISA, which is based in Jamaica, has issued 31 contracts for exploratory work in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Environmentalists who have teamed up with nations like Costa Rica and France to challenge seabed mining (in a call for a moratorium) have said the delay would give them more time to enlist additional countries that want to see a long-term pause or even a moratorium on the practice.

Posted on Categories Fisheries Mining Science