High-level regional workshop boosts participation of Pacific Island countries in deep sea activities to advance the Blue Economy

PRESS RELEASE| 16 February 2019

Governments officials and experts from Pacific Small Island Developing States (P-SIDS) convened at a regional workshop held in Nuku’alofa, Kingdom of Tonga this week, to strengthen national and regional capacities to access sustainably and benefit from seabed activities and therefore, from the Blue Economy.

Organized by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), in partnership with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), and hosted by the Kingdom of Tonga, the workshop provided a unique opportunity to discuss further the potential benefits associated with an increased participation of P-SIDS in deep sea related activities in the international seabed area.

In his opening statement, ISA Secretary-General Mr Michael Lodge highlighted that the Pacific region has been at the forefront when it comes to developing a sustainable deep-sea minerals industry and promoting good governance of marine resources.

“Pacific Island countries, more than any others, understand very well that it is possible to use marine resources sustainably whilst also fulfilling their responsibilities to the marine environment,” he said. “We need to turn natural capital into human capital, to improve living conditions and to create a better world for future generations.”

Mr Mahe ‘U.S Tupouniua, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Tonga added, “The Pacific has, and continues to play a leading role in the development of the concept of the Blue Economy which will contribute to the sustainable development of the region whilst being mindful of needing to conserve and protect the marine environment.”

Mr Sai Navoti, Chief, SIDS Unit, UNDESA highlighted that there are certain capacity characteristics common to P-SIDS in regards to their quest for deep-sea mining. “These include capacity deficiency on collection and dissemination of geological and mineral resources data and information, and largely untested national laws and policies, along with weak understanding of appropriate environmental framework for deep marine environment, and near total neglect of the social policies necessary for deep-sea mining to ensure adequate and commensurate benefit sharing,” said Mr Navoti. “The Abyssal Initiative of ISA and UNDESA aims at addressing some of these capacity gaps,” he added.

Mr Akuila Tawake, Deputy Director, Georesources Sector and Energy Programme at the Pacific Community (SPC) reiterated the role of SPC in the region in providing technical advice to members in relation to sustainable of deep-seabed related activities within and beyond national jurisdictions and emphasised the importance of “collective efforts to ensure that Pacific Island Countries and communities will ultimately benefit from any deep sea mining initiative, including the responsible harnessing of deep sea mineral resources within national jurisdiction as well as in “the Area.”

Held from 12 to 14 February 2019 at the Tanoa International Hotel, the workshop is part of the joint ISA-UNDESA ‘Abyssal initiative for Blue Growth,’ one of the seven Voluntary Commitments made by ISA at the 2017 UN Ocean Conference to advance implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources (#OceanAction16538).

The workshop focused on the status of deep seabed mining activities in the Pacific, the roles and responsibilities of sponsoring States, the legal regime for marine scientific research, and the environmental management of resources. 

Panellists included representatives from SPC, the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat-Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (PIF-OPOC), Deep Green Metals, and Tonga Offshore Mining Limited (TOML) as well as representatives of the Legal and Technical Commission of ISA.

For more information about the ‘Abyssal initiative for Blue Growth,’ visit: bit.ly/PSIDS_VC5

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For media enquiries, please contact: 

Ms. Katie Elles, Communications Specialist, International Seabed Authority M: +1 (876) 835 3801/ E: kelles@isa.org.jm

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