The deep sea is a place of myth and mystery, filled with weird and wonderful life forms, and vital to the survival of our planet. But now, this mostly unknown world is facing large-scale industrial exploitation – as mining of the deep seabed for minerals fast becomes reality.As land-based minerals become depleted and prices rise, the search for new sources of supply is turning to the sea floor. This emerging industry, facilitated by advances in technology, poses a major threat to our oceans, which are already suffering from a number of pressures including overfishing, pollution, and the effects of climate change.The remote deep and open oceans host a major part of the world’s biodiversity, and are vital for our survival on Earth. The deep sea plays an important role in regulating planetary processes, including regulation of temperature and greenhouse gases. It supports ocean life by cycling nutrients and providing habitat for a staggering array of species.
Deep seabed mining could have serious impacts on the ocean environment and the future livelihoods and wellbeing of coastal communities. Only 3% of the oceans are protected and less than 1% of the high seas, making them some of the least protected places on Earth. The emerging threat of seabed mining is an urgent wake-up call.
Greenpeace demands that no seabed mining applications are granted, and that no exploration or exploitation takes place, unless and until the full range of marine habitats, biodiversity and ecosystem functions are adequately protected. Governments and industries seeking to exploit the oceans must recognise that with rights come responsibilities. Putting sustainability first and adopting a precautionary approach to any seabed mining development is the only way to ensure that the oceans – a vital part of the life support system of our planet – continue to provide essential ecosystem services and resources now and in the future.
The oceans hang in the balance. There is no more time to waste. On top of a number of other existing threats, our oceans could face the potentially devastating impacts of deep seabed mining by 2016. All countries in favour of high seas protection must now join forces and act together for healthy oceans and the millions of people that depend on them.