The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) this week called on the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which has just concluded its annual meeting this week, to ensure effective protection of the ocean and ensure full public transparency. The DSCC also called for a broad public debate on opening up the deep ocean to seabed mining as part of the Strategic Plan adopted by the ISA on Thursday.
“Over 50 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) made a joint submission on the ISA strategic plan debated this week, calling on the ISA to establish a process to debate fundamental questions about the need for deep seabed mining and its long-term consequences for the planet and humankind and ensuring that more sustainable alternatives are fully assessed and fed into the debate in an open and transparent manner” said DSCC cofounder Matthew Gianni. “We think this debate is overdue”.
The ISA is in the process of developing regulations that would allow commercial mining in the deep sea for metals such as copper, nickel, cobalt and manganese. The DSCC has called for environmental protection, transparency and public participation to be included in the regulations throughout.
“The deep seabed is the common heritage of humankind,” said Duncan Currie, legal adviser to the DSCC. “This means that the ISA must establish modern, inclusive processes, using the best independent science and opportunities for public comment on all matters – not just environmental. This year’s Assembly and Council meetings were livestreamed over the internet, and we have had feedback from people around the world who tuned in. But the powerful Legal and Technical Commission still holds its meetings behind closed doors, and this must change. We are calling on them to open their next meeting to observers and to live stream it over the internet”.
Already the ISA has issued 29 contracts to government agencies and mining companies to explore the seabed for metals in the international areas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The DSCC has called on the ISA to make these contracts publicly available. The DSCC has also called on the ISA to establish an environment committee. “It is common practice for international environmental organizations to have scientific committees, and it is a major weakness of the ISA that it does not,” said Currie.
A key concern of the DSCC this week was the failure of the Council and Assembly to ensure proper oversight over the first testing of commercial mining equipment in an ISA license area scheduled for early 2019, to be conducted by Belgian contractor Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR) While the EIAs have been posted online by Belgium and by the ISA, there is no clear procedure for revision of the EIAs by the ISA or measures to prevent damage to the environment as is required under the current ISA exploration regulations.
“It is crucial that effective procedures be implemented and existing environmental regulations be adhered to. The regulations are only as good as the paper they are written on and the Council and Assembly of the ISA are failing to ensure that they are properly implemented” said Gianni.
Contacts: Matthew Gianni firstname.lastname@example.org tel: + 31 646 16 88 99
Duncan Currie email@example.com tel: + 64 21 632 335