Regional Environmental Management Plans
Regional Environmental Management Plans (REMPs) are an essential element of the strategies that ISA implements to protect the marine environment. REMPs are developed to:
- provide the relevant organs of ISA, as well as contractors and their sponsoring States, with proactive area-based and other management tools to support informed decision-making that balances resource development with conservation;
- provide ISA with a clear and consistent mechanism to identify particular areas thought to be representative of the full range of habitats, biodiversity and ecosystem structures and functions within the relevant management area;
- provide those areas with appropriate levels of protection; and
- help ISA to meet globally agreed goals and targets, such as Sustainable Development Goals 14.
Environmental Management Plan for the Clarion-Clipperton Zone
The first REMP for the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) was adopted by the Council in 2012 (ISBA/18/C/22), on the basis of the recommendation of the Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) (ISBA/17/LTC/7). This included the designation of a network of nine “Areas of Particular Environmental Interest” (APEIs). Such APEIs are protected from future exploitation of mineral resources in the Area.
In October 2019, the ISA secretariat convened the workshop on the CCZ biodiversity synthesis in collaboration with the Deep CCZ Project. This workshop builds on the discussions in 2016 when the Commission considered proposals for additional APEIs. The key scientific results of this workshop include:
- Biodiversity is high, variable, and still very poorly sampled across the CCZ, with many, possibly thousands of, new species to be collected and described;
- Key environmental drivers of biodiversity in the CCZ include flux of Particulate Organic Carbon (POC), nodule abundance, and bottom topography, supporting the original APEI design variables;
- There are many rare species with likely limited dispersal and distribution (< 200 Km), and relatively few taxa with wide distributions, indicating that the size of APEI is appropriate for self-sustaining populations; and
- Connectivity varies between taxa, with a gradient of connectivity for some species with distance.
A habitat classification approach, based on the three major environmental drivers, was used to assess the representativity and replication of habitats in the original APEI network. These outcomes would provide the basis for the LTC’s future recommendation on possible additional APEIs to improve representativity and address any spatial gaps in the current APEI network.
Development of REMPs in other regions
In 2018, the Council took note of a preliminary strategy (ISBA/24/C/3) to develop REMPs in priority regions where exploration activities currently take place. The Council agreed with the priority areas that had been identified on a preliminary basis as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Indian Ocean triple junction ridge and nodule-bearing province, as well as the North-West Pacific and South Atlantic for seamounts. In 2019, the Council took note of a report prepared by the secretariat, including a programme of work (ISBA/25/C/13) to implement this strategy through a series of regional workshops.
To facilitate the development of REMPs in other regions, the Secretariat prepared the REMP guidance document, which outlines the process and scientific approaches for developing REMPs. The REMP guidance document is being further developed by the LTC, as requested by the Council at Part I of 26th Session. This continued development of the REMP guidance document builds on the experiences gained through the on-going process, as well as inputs from member states and other stakeholders.
In November 2019, the ISA Secretariat convened an international workshop, to facilitate the development of an REMP for the Area of the northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge with focus on polymetallic sulphides (PMS) deposits, in collaboration with the Atlantic REMP project (sponsored by European Union). This workshop, held in Evora (Portugal), discussed three complementary approaches: adaptive management, area- based management and qualitative modelling for assessing cumulative impacts. Such results will provide the scientific basis for the following workshop for the same region, to be held in Saint Petersburg (Russia), which will identify a range of environmental management measures for the REMP development.
Similar workshops will be organized in 2021 and 2022 to facilitate the development of REMPs in other priority regions including the Northwest Pacific and Indian Ocean.