Six years after the adoption of the EU deep-sea fishing Regulation that prohibited bottom trawling below 800 meters in EU waters, the EU has finally adopted an ‘Implementing Act’ to begin closing coldwater coral and other biologically diverse deep-sea vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) below 400 meters depth to bottom fishing.
Civil society welcomes this long-awaited protection of VMEs. The adopted protective measures are, however, already under threat.
As resistance to the emerging destructive deep-sea mining industry continues to skyrocket in Lisbon this week at the UN Ocean Conference, French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a stop to mining in the high seas.
Speaking at an official conference side event held at the Lisbon Oceanarium, President Macron stated: “We have to create the legal framework to stop high seas mining and not to allow new activities that endanger ecosystems.”
Throughout the week at the UN Ocean Conference, the controversial issue of deep-sea mining has been high on the agenda with politicians, youth groups, scientists and civil society all calling to defend the deep and stop the nascent industry in its tracks.
“The momentum created this week at the UN Ocean Conference is a tipping point for the deep ocean, the blue heart of our planet. President Macron has effectively echoed the countless calls this week to press ‘pause’ on any and all ambitions to mine the deep sea.”
Sian Owen, Director of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition
“The UN Ocean Conference has shaped up to be a watershed event for the protection of the ocean with the increasing calls for a moratorium or ban on deep-sea mining.”
Matthew Gianni, co-founder of the DSCC.
In his speech today, President Macron referred to a statement by the new Australian Minister of the Environment, Tanya Plibersek, earlier this week, who stated that with the new government ‘Australia is back’ when it comes to protecting the environment. In the 1980s, France and Australia combined forces to change the course of negotiations to open up the Antarctic continent to mining and convinced the other countries involved in the negotiations to agree to a moratorium on mining in Antarctica. The DSCC’s Matthew Gianni commented: “I can’t help but think President Macron may have been signalling to the Australian government that they try it again, this time to protect the global ocean commons from the same destructive industry, before it starts.”
Scientists continue to raise the alarm that if the industry were to go ahead, it would result in an irreversible loss of biodiversity and could threaten critical carbon stocks, potential medicines and fisheries for species such as tuna.
As the backlash surrounding the destructive industry builds, so do concerns that the International Seabed Authority, the body charged with regulating the emerging industry, is not transparent or fit for purpose. Earlier in the week at an event hosted by the Authority, a peaceful protest consisting of the quiet display of A4 signs, with the message, “Deep-Sea Mining: stop and think”, resulted in UN security threatening to remove delegates from the conference and confiscate their badges. Civil society has also protested the Authority’s lack of transparency as new restrictions on participation at upcoming deep-sea mining meetings in July and August have been introduced, closing the door on negotiations for many stakeholders at what would be a critical juncture. In a joint letter to the ISA Secretary General, 31 civil society organizations called on the Authority to lift the restrictions or else postpone the meetings to ensure that as many states, civil society organizations, journalists and others can make their voices heard.
It is now vital that the frontrunners of this political movement take the moratorium call to the International Seabed Authority and other international fora as the year goes on. The world is watching.
This week, the Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture voted on the European Commission’s proposal to close vulnerable areas to fishing gears which touch the seabed with the majority of EU member states adopted the implementing Act. EU member States had committed to do so in 2016, when adopting the Deep Sea Fisheries Regulation.
The DSCCwarmly welcomes this vote and applauds the Commission for steering this process to successful conclusion.
We encourage the Commissioner Sinkevicius and DG Mare to ensure that the implementing act as adopted becomes law without any further delays. Deep sea vulnerable marine ecosystems can not wait any longer for sound protection.
Today the European Commission published the EU agenda on International Ocean Governance, announcing its intention to “prohibit deep-sea mining until scientific gaps are properly filled, no harmful effects arise from mining and the marine environment is effectively protected”.
The European Parliament has reiterated its call for a moratorium on destructive deep-sea mining. It is essential that the European Commission and member states carry this call through to the International Seabed Authority this year.
A new Alliance of Pacific parliamentarians calls on Pacific leaders to protect its territorial waters from deep-sea mining. Their action sets an example for the EU, which continues to address its deep-sea mining precautionary position exclusively to international waters, largely ignoring deep-sea mining risk in European seas.
Authors: Yannick Jadot, Marie Toussaint et Caroline Roose
The French ecologist presidential candidate Yannick Jadot and the MEPs Marie Toussaint and Caroline Roose point to the contradictions of Emmanuel Macron as he hosts a world summit on the safeguarding of the oceans.
As IUCN members voted in favour of a moratorium on deep-sea mining on 8th September at IUCN World Conservation Congress, the European Commission (EC) published its 2021 Strategic Foresight Report, announcing plans to step-up deep-sea mining exploration.