Biodiversity and Environmental Monitoring
The number of species of flora and fauna, the enormous diversity of genes in these species, the different ecosystems in the ocean are all part of a biologically diverse realm about which we have very little data. This is even more so in the deep oceans where extreme abiotic conditions including enormous pressures, eternal darkness and low ambient temperatures as well as a scarcity of nutrients have led to the evolution of highly adapted life forms in the abyss. These specialised ecosystems are not found anywhere else on earth. They form part of the Common Heritage of Mankind under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The law calls for the protection of their biodiversity and requires mining contractors to “take necessary measures to prevent, reduce and control pollution and other hazards
The ISA’s Regulatory and Monitoring Role
The International Seabed Authority has the responsibility to establish international rules, regulations and procedures to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from activities in the Area, and to protect and conserve the natural resources of the Area(link) and prevent damage to the flora and fauna (that is, the biodiversity) of the marine environment.
In 2011, the Council of the Authority considered a proposal for an environmental management plan for the Clarion-Clipperton Zone submitted by the Legal and Technical Commission. The plan included the establishment of nine areas of particular environmental interest intended to protect the biodiversity and ecosystem structure and functioning of the Zone from the potential impacts of seabed mining. The Environmental Management Plan (EMP) was adopted by the Council in 2012.
Future related works
The products from these workshops are expected to advance the understanding of environmental baselines in the CCZ, to support the environmental management plan (EMP) and to enable the Authority to make periodic assessments of the state of the environment as activities progress. A similar series of workshops are envisaged with respect to polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crust deposits in areas where the Authority has entered into exploration contracts.
These workshops bring together contractors and taxonomic experts for different faunal groups to discuss and make recommendations on the varying taxonomic standards applied by contractors. Their reports enable the Authority to assemble biodiversity data collected by the various contractors, to create spatial repositories based on standardized taxonomic classifications, and take informed decisions on environmental management in exploration areas, regional zones with large concentrations of contractors (such as the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone [CCZ]), and subsequent mining areas.
Ongoing work includes the updating and expansion of the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone Atlas of Abyssal Megafauna to include Meiofauna and Macrofauna.
Protecting Deep-Sea Biodiversity
To assess potential effects of their activities, contractors have to gather environmental baseline data as exploration activities progress. The collection of biological baseline data, however, requires considerable taxonomic expertise, especially since a large proportion -possibly the majority- of species is still unknown to science.
To ensure taxonomic standards are being met by the contractors in their baseline studies of the biological components in exploration areas, it was decided to convene three taxonomic workshops on the megafauna, macrofauna, and meiofauna in contracted areas. The first taxonomic workshop on megafauna was held at the Marine Research Department of Senckenberg am Meer in Wilhelmshaven, Germany from 10th to 15th June 2013 and focused on megafauna associated with polymetallic nodule (link to workshop documents) deposits in the Area, and in particular in the CCZ.
Technical Study: No. 10: Environmental Management Needs for Exploration and Exploitation of Deep Sea Minerals
Technical Study: No. 9: Environmental Management of Deep-Sea Chemosynthetic Ecosystems: Justification of and Considerations...
Technical Study: No. 8: Fauna of Cobalt-Rich Ferromanganese Crust Seamounts
Technical Study: No. 7: Marine Benthic Nematode Molecular Protocol Handbook (Nematode Barcoding)
Technical Study: No. 5: Non-Living Resources of the Continental Shelf Beyond 200 Nautical Miles: Speculations on the Impleme...
Technical Study: No. 3: Biodiversity, Species Ranges and Gene Flow in the Abyssal Pacific Nodule Province: Predicting and Ma...
Technical Study: No. 1: Global non-living resources on the extended continental shelf: Prospects at the year 2000
Twenty years ago on 16 November 1994, Kingston was jubilant as it commemorated the entry into for of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ("theConvention"), adopted in 1982, and consequently, the inauguration of the International Seabed Authority ("The Authority"), as the country had been chosen almost a quarter century earlier to host this unique institution. The decision concerning the seat of the Authority had been taken by an informal vote during the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea ("the Third Conference").: Celebrating 20 years
Technical Studies 11 - After decades ‘on hold’, there is renewed interest in the potential for commercial exploitation of deep seabed polymetallic nodules (PN). The principal drivers of this new interest are largely the result of five factors: a) a dramatic increase in demand for metal; b) an equally dramatic rise in metal prices; c) the high profitability of mining sector companies;: Towards the Development of a Regulatory Framework for Polymetallic Nodule Exploitation in the Area
ISA Technical Study No. 13 : Deep Sea Macrofauna of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone: Deep Sea Macrofauna of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone
ISA Technical Study No 14 : Submarine Cables and Deep Seabed Mining. Advancing Common Interests and Addressing UNCLOS "Due Regard" Obligations: Submarine Cables and Deep Seabed Mining
ISA Technical Study No.15 : A Study of Key Terms in Article 82 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: A Study of Key Terms in Article 82 of UNCLOS
ISA Technical Study No. 16 : Environmental Assessment and Management for Exploitation of Minerals in the Area: Environmental Assessment and Management for Exploitation of Minerals in the Area
Report of an International Workshop convened by the Griffith University Law School in collaboration with the International Seabed Authority in Queensland, Australia, 23-26 May 2016.