Protect the marine environment from harm
This is a submission in response to the call for comments on the draft Strategic Plan of the International Seabed Authority, which was requested by the Council in ISBA23/A/13. The undersigning organisations would like to focus on some fundamental questions that need to be addressed first and foremost, and which we would like to see integrated in the ISA Strategic Plan.
We are deeply concerned about the potentially irreversible losses of marine biodiversity which will likely result from deep-sea mining. While much remains unknown about deep-sea ecosystems, recent science calls for a fundamental rethinking of the course set towards allowing commercial deep sea mining in the short term. A recent collective letter published in Nature Geoscience concluded that most mining-induced loss of biodiversity in the deep sea is likely to last forever on human timescales, given the very slow natural rates of recovery in affected ecosystems (1). Another recent article in Frontiers in Marine Science concludes that the mining industry cannot deliver an outcome where there is no loss of biodiversity, as a result of the vulnerable nature of deep-sea environments to mining impacts, currently limited technological capacity to minimize harm, significant gaps in ecological knowledge, and uncertainties of recovery potential of deep-sea ecosystems (2).
With the risk of irreversible and significant environmental impacts, and socio-economic benefits that are uncertain and inevitably short term, deep-sea mining imposes a serious threat to global sustainability. Deep-sea mining has no place in the world’s Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. We must prioritise sustainable alternatives and avoid locking our economy into this high risk technology.