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Advocating for Deep-Sea Protection in 2023

   

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Sustainable Ocean Alliance is accelerating ocean solutions around the world. Here are their stories.

On November 8, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) officially completed Part III of its 28th Session on deep-sea mining negotiations. 2023 consisted of three sessions at the ISA (Spring, Summer, and Fall) and Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) was proud to send a delegation of young ocean leaders from our community to participate in each one of these meetings. Learn more about the greatest wins and challenges of these meetings and what you can expect for the 29th Session in 2024.


Celebrating A Year of Action and Advocacy for the Deep Sea

Since 2022, SOA has had the honor to represent our organization, stakeholders, and partners at the ISA, with the mission to advocate for the protection of our deep sea as our greatest defense against climate change. As the first youth-led organization to achieve Observer Status at the ISA, we are proud to use our platform to amplify the voices and concerns of this generation to a global audience. 

In 2023, we witnessed many wins for the deep sea. Most noteworthy, 11 new countries joined the call to stop deep-sea mining in international waters in 2023, bringing us to 23 total countries calling for a moratorium, precautionary pause, or total ban on deep-sea mining. 

DSM Moratorium Country Tracker

Many more have banded together in opposition against deep-sea mining, including the UN Commissioner on Human Rightsseafood industry leadersnumerous Indigenous groups, hundreds of NGOs, 800+ marine science & policy experts37 global financial institutions (worth €3.3 trillion of combined assets), and more. It is clear our allies in this fight go beyond the scope of governments and elected officials.

During the November meeting, SOA continued to make an impact before the ISA Council. On November 1, SOA Youth Delegate Sweelan Renaud (Trinidad & Tobago) delivered a compelling intervention,  imploring gathered delegates to, “align decisions with independent science and not with artificial timelines to adopt regulations.”

 

Observers representing civil society and NGOs continued to be a strong voice within the negotiations, giving powerful interventions regarding:

  • The current lack of comprehensive scientific understanding of the deep sea

  • The need for greater transparency and autonomy between mining companies and contractors

  • The right to free, prior, and informed consent for Indigenous Peoples and the protection of cultural values regarding the disturbance to and resource extraction from deep-sea ecosystems.

  • Why deep-sea minerals are not needed to fuel the green transition, referencing the recently published research by the Blue Climate Initiative on next-generation EV batteries

  • And how the current draft regulations would not prevent deep-sea mining from causing irreversible harm and destruction to the marine environment

Throughout the meeting, the race to adopt the mining code by 2025 was slowed due to major inconsistencies, gaps, and insurmountable differences amongst negotiators regarding the draft regulations for the mining code. The 28th Session of 2023 ended with this temporary win: no deep-sea mining received the green light and the mining code is far from being able to be agreed upon and adopted.


Remaining Challenges at Play

While we can claim some wins from the ISA this year, many challenges remain—and negotiations are far from over.

By the end of the November meeting, member states of the ISA continued to negotiate the mining code that, if it is adopted, would open the fragile deep sea to deep-sea mining. The adoption of the mining code would pave the way for an inherently damaging extractive activity to begin with sparse scientific understanding and harmful operational practices. Rather than adopting the mining code, SOA and our partners are advocating that the best way forward is a moratorium on deep-sea mining

In addition to the mining code, the 2-year legal loophole remains open, which could allow for a mining company to submit a plan of work to mine to be provisionally approved, even without regulations, standards, and guidelines. Closing this loophole is a key first step to avoid having deep-sea mining fast-tracked. To fully stop deep-sea mining from beginning, countries must establish a moratorium as soon as possible. Come July 2024, the moratorium on deep-sea mining may come to a vote at the next Assembly Meeting if a minimum of 85 member state representatives are present.

Despite continued drops in their stock prices and increasing global resistance to deep-sea mining, industry leader The Metals Company (TMC) continues to push forward with their intention to submit their mining application by next year, sponsored by member state Nauru. On November 9, TMC held their quarterly corporate update, with CEO Gerard Barron claiming the company is on track for its plans to launch commercial mining in July 2024—regardless of the state of the development of the ISA mining code regulations. TMC’s Chief Financial Officer, Craig Shesky, stated they would force governments to process their application.”


What Comes Next: The 29th Session at the International Seabed Authority

The ISA will resume its 29th Session beginning March 2024, and SOA will be hot on its heels to use our collective voice, resources, and community to continue to raise the alarm on deep-sea mining. We must remain vigilant and steadfast for the deep sea as we enter a whole new round of negotiations. Come March, we will continue our efforts on the ground to provide firsthand critical updates from the meetings with insight into what is being discussed, negotiated, and agreed upon. 

2023 showed promising signs of progress on the global movement to stop deep-sea mining, and 2024 will be just as crucial in protecting the deep sea from exploitation. SOA would like to extend our gratitude to all who have joined our campaign against deep-sea mining, signed petitions, sent emails to government officials, participated in events, and taken action to protect our deep sea. It is your collective voice that has been echoed throughout these challenging meetings and resonated deeply among member states. Together, we are creating an ocean of change. 

How YOU Can Help

If you’re ready to take action, here are a few steps you can take to prevent deep-sea mining:



 

Additional Resources:

Recent SOA Publications: 

Linkedin Live — Deep Sea Dialogues: Reflections from the 2023 ISA Meetings with SOA's Youth Delegates 

Monaco Announces Official Position Against Deep-Sea Mining

Wins & Outcomes of July Meetings at the International Seabed Authority

Update on Deep-Sea Mining and the Fight for a Global Moratorium

About Deep-Sea Mining:

About Deep-Sea Mining by Deep Sea Conservation Coalition

What Is Deep-Sea Mining and Why Does It Matter? by SOA Founder & CEO Daniela V. Fernandez

Recent Government Movements & Announcements:

UK supports moratorium on deep-sea mining to protect ocean and marine ecosystems

China is set to dominate the deep sea and its wealth of rare metals

Albert II of Monaco: “We cannot accept deep-sea mining”

Global Campaigners Call On Norway to Ditch Deep-Sea Mining Plan

Recent Articles and Research Discoveries: 

While The Metals Company construct their own reality, commercial deep-sea mining is a long way off

‘Very good progress’ but nothing firm as deep-sea mining rules are hashed out

Negotiations Over Proposed Regulations for Deep-Sea Mining Plod Along as Pressure Mounts

Next Generation EV Batteries Eliminate the Need for Deep-Sea Mining

To engage in deep-sea mining or not to engage: what do full net cost analyses tell us?

Environmental groups reject deep-sea mining as key UN meeting looms

 


 

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