Deep Sea

The deep sea is the biggest habitat of our planet – a vast
kingdom of fascinating specialists. But we are about to destroy it irreversibly

Warning over deep-sea ‘gold rush’

D Relicanthus klammert sich an einen Schwammstiel auf dem Boden des Pazifischen Ozeans.

© DJ Amon & CR Smith

EurekAlert!, 17.12.2018

A “gold rush” of seabed mining could lead to unprecedented damage to fragile deep-sea ecosystems, researchers have warned.

With major decisions on the future of seabed mining expected in 2019-20, scientists and policy experts from the University of Exeter and Greenpeace have recommended a range of measures to prevent environmental damage.

They say deep-sea ecosystems currently need more protection, rather than new threats.

They also argue that mining in the deep sea (depths below 200m) could be avoided altogether if humanity moved towards a “circular economy” that focuses on reuse and recycling of metals, reduces overconsumption and limits built-in obsolescence of technology.

“This ‘gold rush’ is being driven by our ever-growing demand for minerals,” said Dr David Santillo, a marine biologist and senior Greenpeace scientist based at the University of Exeter.

“Should we allow seabed mining – with the risk it poses to deep-sea ecosystems – or should we focus instead on reducing this demand for virgin minerals?”

The scientists also call for an improved network of Marine Protected Areas, strict regulations and monitoring of all human activities on the seabed, and far greater transparency on the costs and benefits of any proposed mining.

“The deep sea is beyond the jurisdiction of any single state and we need more joined-up global governance to prevent biodiversity loss from human activities”, said Dr Kirsten Thompson, a marine biologist at the University of Exeter and co-author on the study.

“Some areas targeted for seabed mining are known to be hotspots for biodiversity, including habitat for endemic corals and nursery grounds for sharks.”

The paper, published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, gives an overview of the current state of regulations and their likely effectiveness, with the aim to stimulate wider discussion before the International Seabed Authority reaches any decisions to allow commercial mining of the seafloor. […]

The entire can be found here.


The paper is entitled: “Seabed mining and approaches to governance of the deep seabed.”, published by Frontiers in Marine Science is open-access and available here.


Environmental groups call for a U-turn on deep sea mining

Brussels, Tuesday 3 July 2018

As the International Seabed Authority (ISA) gathers in Jamaica, environmental organisations are calling on governments to wake up to the irreversible harm that deep sea mining will inflict, not only to marine ecosystems but also to global efforts to transition to a sustainable economy.
In a joint statement to the ISA, 45 organisations, including Greenpeace and Seas At Risk, warn of significant loss of biodiversity if the world’s seabeds are opened up to mining.
“Humanity depends on healthy oceans. Sending huge machines to the bottom of the sea to rip up the ocean floor will have devastating effects. Deep sea mining could wipe out species and ecosystems before we even know them.” said David Santillo, a scientist at Greenpeace International.
The letter states that deep sea mining is contradictory to the UN sustainable development commitments, particularly goals on healthy oceans and sustainable consumption and production. The groups also question industry claims that deep sea mining is needed:
“We risk squandering one of our most precious ecosystems, which has a vital role to play in the health of our planet, for an obsolete dream of boundless growth,” states the letter.
“It is time we learn to use minerals in a responsible and efficient way, instead of digging up the deep sea to fuel a throwaway economy which turns metals into waste on a large scale,” said Ann Dom, deputy director of Seas at Risk.
The civil society organisations argue the ISA should focus its mission on protecting the deep sea, defined by the United Nations as ‘common heritage of mankind’.
The NGOs are calling on the ISA to end the granting of contracts for deep-sea mining exploration and to not issue contracts for exploitation.
The groups are also concerned about the lack of transparency and shortage of environmental expertise in the ISA and demand a full and public process to assess the potential impact of deep sea mining.

The future of deep seabed mining

© Nautilus Minerals

“Our current knowledge of the deep sea is not sufficient to protect the unique species that live there from mining operations. It is alarming to see contracts being granted for these still largely unexplored and vulnerable areas. We need a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining exploitation.” – Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) of Global Marine and Polar Programme.

Chinadialogue ocean, 25.02.2019, Author: Jessica Aldred

It’s one of the coldest, darkest places on earth, full of marine life – much of which is yet to be discovered – with a seabed rich in mineral deposits.

In the last decade, the floor of the deep ocean that lies outside the jurisdiction of any one country has been increasingly explored. A number of parties are assessing the size and extent of mineral deposits that could provide raw materials for everything from batteries and jet engines to wind turbines and mobile phones.

Some deep seabed mining has already taken place within countries’ waters: Japan in 2017, and in Papua New Guinea where the controversial Solwara 1 mining project has ground to a halt. But this year will see a critical global debate on how to manage the resources that lie in “the area” – international waters of more than 200 metres deep that cover nearly two-thirds of the earth.

The question of who mines these – and how – is due to be formalised in a “code” being drawn up by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the UN–appointed body responsible for managing the riches of the deep seabed for the “common heritage of mankind”.

Tasked with what some say is an impossible mandate of promoting the development of deep seabed mining while ensuring the practice does not harm the marine environment, the ISA’s 168 members must agree on how these fragile and unique ecosystems will be protected, how the potentially multibillion dollar industry will be regulated, how any profits will be shared equitably, and how it can demonstrate accountability and transparency. […]

The entire article can be found here.

Chinadialogue ocean:

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature:






Study: Every Animal Pulled from the Deepest Trenches of the Ocean Had Plastic in its Gut

© Alan Jamieson / Newcastle University

The Atlantic, 27.02.2019, Author: Ed Yong

Alan Jamieson remembers seeing it for the first time: a small, black fiber floating in a tube of liquid. It resembled a hair, but when Jamieson examined it under a microscope, he realized that the fiber was clearly synthetic—a piece of plastic. And worryingly, his student Lauren Brooks had pulled it from the gut of a small crustacean living in one of the deepest parts of the ocean.

For the past decade, Jamieson, a marine biologist at Newcastle University, has been sending vehicles to the bottom of marine trenches, which can be as deep as the Himalayas are tall. Once there, these landers have collected amphipods—scavenger relatives of crabs and shrimp that thrive in the abyss. Jamieson originally wanted to know how these animals differ from one distant trench to another. But a few years ago, almost on a whim, he decided to analyze their body for toxic, human-made pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which have been banned for decades but which persist in nature for much longer.

The team found PCBs galore. Some amphipods were carrying levels 50 times higher than those seen in crabs from one of China’s most polluted rivers. When the news broke, Jamieson was inundated with calls from journalists and concerned citizens. And in every discussion, one question kept coming up: What about plastics? […]

The entire article can be found here.

The Atlantic:

Further information about the study of “Newcastle University”: