Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the Convention), States parties have a general obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment.
This overarching obligation encompasses responsibilities to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from any source, to monitor the risks or effects of pollution and to assess the potential effects of activities under States parties jurisdiction and control that may cause substantial pollution of or significant and harmful changes to the marine environment.
In particular, States parties must take measures to protect and preserve rare or fragile ecosystems, as well as the habitats of depleted, threatened or endangered species and other forms of marine life. They must also prevent, reduce and control pollution resulting from the use of technologies under their jurisdiction or control and the intentional or accidental introduction of alien or new species to a particular part of the marine environment.
In the deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction, that is the “Area”, those responsibilities are shared between all States parties to the Convention as the Area and its resources are the common heritage of mankind.
The International Seabed Authority, on behalf of the States parties to the Convention, is responsible for administering the mineral resources of the Area, including prospecting, exploration and exploitation activities for those resources. As part of its responsibility, the Authority is charged with taking the measures necessary to ensure effective protection of the marine environment from the harmful effects that may arise from such activities. For that purpose, the Authority must adopt appropriate rules, regulations and procedures designed to accomplish the following:
- Prevent, reduce and control pollution and other hazards to the marine environment, including the coastline, that have the potential to interfere with the ecological balance of the marine environment. In doing this, its mandate calls for particular attention to be paid to the need for protection from the harmful effects of such activities as drilling, dredging, excavating, disposing of waste, and constructing and operating or maintaining installations, pipelines and other devices related to such activities;
- Protect and conserve the natural resources of the Area, preventing damage to the flora and fauna of the marine environment.
ISBA/18/C/22: Decision of the Council relating to an environmental management plan for the Clarion-Clipperton Zone
ISBA/17/LTC/7: Environmental Management Plan for the Clarion-Clipperton Zone