Suva, July 12, 2013 – The extinction of unique deep sea species and other significant irreversible environmental damage to our oceans are a likely result of an emerging trend to exploit seabed minerals, Greenpeace International says.
A new report from Greenpeace International (1) has found that the potential impact of deep sea mining is not properly understood. Mining could devastate biodiversity hotspots and endanger deep sea organisms as sediment waste and pollution from toxic heavy metals are discharged. This comes as only 3% of the world’s oceans and less than 1% of the high seas are protected, making them among the most environmentally vulnerable places on Earth.
“Deep seabed mining could have serious impacts on the ocean environment and the future livelihoods and wellbeing of coastal communities,” said Alicia Craw, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner. “We cannot in good conscience stand by and allow that to happen.”
Copper, manganese, cobalt and rare earth metals (2) are found in or on the seabed and a growing number of governments and companies are developing deep seabed mining ventures for mineral exploration. Canada, Japan, South Korea, China and the UK are just some of the countries that have been granted contracts by the International Seabed Authority, which is holding its 19th session in Jamaica from July 15-26 where more applications will be considered.
“We’re on the verge of a dangerous new kind of gold rush in our oceans, which are already suffering from overfishing, climate change and pollution. Governments must fast-track the establishment of a global network of marine reserves that will act as crucial sanctuaries at sea for marine life and protect the ecosystems that we all rely on for our survival,” said Craw.
Greenpeace demands that no seabed mining in coastal zones, on continental shelves or in areas beyond national jurisdiction, takes place unless the impacts from mining are addressed (3) and marine habitats protected.
Greenpeace is also calling for end-user industries to invest in designing products that use seabed minerals more efficiently, while taking responsibility for reusing and recycling initiatives.
Endorsing the Greenpeace International report, Oxford University Conservation Biology Professor Alex Rogers said: “The advent of deep sea mining represents the advent of a new stressor on the oceans. The destruction caused by deep sea fishing on the high seas has demonstrated what uncontrolled use of the global commons can lead to. There is an urgent need to establish a framework for conservation of the deep sea through the establishment of a network of marine protected areas and new international standards for environmental impact assessments that apply to all sectors of industry exploiting ocean resources.”
Greenpeace is asking supporters to help protect our oceans by adding their names to a petition for a global network of 40% marine reserves. Sign our petition here.