Thousands of meters below the ocean’s surface live the creatures of the deep seabed. The ocean floor is one of the least explored areas in the world. While it once was thought to be lifeless, new discoveries reveal many species thriving in waters so deep that in some cases self-generating bioluminescence provides the only light.
But the deep sea is also home to valuable mineral deposits, which many see as the next frontier in mining and resource extraction.
More than half of the world’s seabed lies in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) was established in 1982 under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to manage these ocean bottoms. As part of its mandate, the ISA is in the process of writing the rules that will ultimately dictate how seabed mining can move forward, how to lower its impact, and how to protect areas of particular ecological importance from mining.
The ISA will meet Aug. 7-18 in Kingston, Jamaica, for its 23rd annual session. Member states and official observers will discuss drafts of a mining code and ways to reduce environmental impacts. Now is the time for governments to ensure that when seabed mining begins, it is undertaken in a way that protects and conserves special areas of the deep for future generations.