Ocean Scientists Warn against Deep Sea Mining
Over 300 academics from six continents on June 24, 2021 called on countries and governments to press pause on plans to open up the deep sea to mining. Leading ocean experts said that far too little is known about these sensitive and important ocean ecosystems, which are already under stress from climate change, bottom trawling and pollution, as well as potential impacts of mining. University of California Santa Barbara professor Douglas McCauley said “The health of our oceans and us depends on halting plans to begin deep-sea mining now. Mining is simply too risky an enterprise to take up in an already overstressed ocean. Science today indicates that deep-sea mining would threaten unique and important species, would inflict irreversible damage to sensitive ocean habitats, could source toxins into seafood via the formation of contaminated wastewater plumes, and might threaten the capacity of our ocean to store carbon and slow climate change. There are many alternate viable pathways that would allow us to do business uninterrupted without ever needing to start mining the deep ocean.”
The signers, who study a range of ocean disciplines, hail from the United States, the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, Germany, Sweden, Portugal, Russia, France, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Norway, Australia and Canada. By issuing this statement, they join a growing global chorus of more than 90 NGOs, environmental leaders such as David Attenborough, Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, and ocean scientists around the world that have all spoken out on the hazards of ocean mining.
In the statement, scientists urge that a healthy, functioning ocean is vital for human well-being and the planet and that the decision about whether to start mining the deep sea should only be made when we have a better understanding of what is at stake.
Sometime in the near future, perhaps even in the next year, the International Seabed Authority is expected to adopt the regulations that would allow deep-sea mining to begin in the high seas, an area of international jurisdiction where all countries and people have a responsibility and claim over biodiversity and resource management.