Underwater mountain chains teem with fish, corals, and other fauna and flora. Hydrothermal vents gush mineral-rich waters that support communities of deep-sea organisms. Unusual animals, many of which have yet to be identified, roam these surreal landscapes.
But the deep ocean faces threats as governments and companies position themselves to mine mineral deposits beneath the deep-sea bed, more than half of which lies beyond national jurisdiction. History suggests that unregulated exploitation of this environment could have disastrous impacts. Many deep-sea organisms are extremely slow-growing and may take centuries to recover from damage, if they come back at all.
The International Seabed Authority (ISA), established in 1994 under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, is developing rules for seabed mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Pew is working internationally and with the ISA to identify sensitive areas for protection from mining. Well-regulated mining can occur in some areas of the high seas, but it is critical that the ISA adopt strong, science-based rules that balance that activity with conservation of biodiversity in the deep ocean.