Barcelona, Spain – On Friday, 12 April, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) concluded its engagement at the 2024 Ocean Decade Conference, where scientists, policymakers and industry leaders convened to discuss cooperation, synergies and renewed commitments towards advancing marine science and knowledge.

In light of the mandate assigned to it by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to promote and encourage marine scientific research in the international seabed area (the Area) representing 54 per cent of the world’s ocean seabed, as well as coordinating and disseminating the results of such research when available, ISA plays a central role in relation to advancing deep-sea scientific research priorities for the benefit of humanity at large.

In 2020, all ISA Member States unanimously adopted a dedicated Action Plan in support of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (MSR Action Plan), agreeing on a core group of six scientific priorities, which have since structured the work and activities of ISA. The breadth and depth of these actions, as well as the outcomes generated by the multiple strategic partnerships established since 2020 and initiatives implemented with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, were presented and discussed in a series of side events hosted or co-organized by ISA.

In partnership with the governments of Argentina, Bangladesh and the Cook Islands, as well as the National Oceanography Centre from the United Kingdom and the National Marine Biodiversity Institute from Korea, the first event organized to discuss the best way forward was called Leveraging knowledge, innovation and empowerment in deep-sea research in support of the stewardship of the Area for the benefit of humankind. In his opening remarks, ISA Secretary-General H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge underscored the central role of science in the work of ISA, including ensuring the protection of the marine environment of the Area through informed decision-making processes with a view to applying the precautionary approach effectively.

“The problem is that this knowledge is unevenly distributed. Some parts of the sea floor have been little studied, including the zones of some developing countries. And even more importantly, capacity and knowledge are unevenly distributed – some will say inequitably. Deep-sea science is costly and relies on advanced technology. It is out of reach of the majority of developing countries. That is why ISA has a very important mandate first to make sure that the scientific knowledge of the deep ocean floor is made available through ISA to everyone, and second, to support developing countries by building capacity,” he said.

Secretary-General Lodge concluded by calling upon all ISA Member States and competent organizations to join the Global Call for Action launched in partnership with Argentina and Bangladesh during the United Nations SDG Summit held in September 2022 for greater investment in science, technology and deep-sea literacy.

The event underscored ISA’s role and contribution to advancing scientific and technological outputs to address critical challenges, including enhancing access to ocean data, engaging the private sector and promoting equitable participation in the United Nations Ocean Decade. The significant contribution of ISA’s capacity development initiatives was also underscored. It was recalled that as of today, through uniquely tailored programmes and initiatives, ISA and its partners have been able to equip over 1,000 individuals from developing States with advanced skills, thereby enhancing global collaboration and boosting individual careers in deep-sea science and technology. Experts from academia, industry and the ISA Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) highlighted the benefits of inclusive partnerships in ocean stewardship. Success stories presented included the progress in regional environmental management plans, showcasing effective enhancements in the science-policy interface to support a sustainable ocean economy.

In his keynote address, the Honourable Mark Brown, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, noted the importance of the scientific legacy held in ISA. “This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of ISA. We should celebrate and take stock of the scientific outputs achieved. They are the results of a unique deep-sea science diplomacy that relied on the international community and all actors involved,” he said.

“As a first-hour signatory of the Global Call to Action aimed at accelerating sustainable development through deep-sea science and innovation, which was launched on the margins of the SDG Summit in New York in 2023, I invite other ISA Members and competent organizations to join this call to continue to increase the momentum of the MSR Action Plan,” Prime Minister Brown added.

Reflecting on the catalysing effect of partnerships in support of scientific achievements in the context of the stewardship of the Area and its resources for the benefit of humankind, Mr. Wan-Hyun Choi, President of the National Marine Biodiversity Institute of Korea, emphasized that his institute had been a long-standing partner of ISA for the implementation of the global deep-sea research agenda. “I am particularly proud of the advancement spearheaded by my institute in the domains of taxonomy and the innovation of tools for biodiversity assessment. I stand ready to continue to support the endeavours in this important domain in collaboration with other ISA partners,” President Choi said.

Dr. Marzia Rovere, Senior marine scientist from the National Research Council of Italy, highlighted the significant contribution of the LTC in ensuring that data and information collected can support informed decision-making processes. “I am proud that with the multidisciplinary experts of the LTC, we put forward reporting templates for the contractors to guide the submission of data and their annual reports. This represented a great advancement in the standardization of data and the start-up of the ISA’s DeepData repository,” she said.

Reflecting on the importance of advancing scientific research, innovation and technology to support the effective implementation of UNCLOS and the work of ISA in support of the protection of the common heritage of humankind, Ms. Rosa Delia Gomez Duran, Legal Adviser at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina, reiterated the support and commitment of her country and government as a champion of the ISA Action Plan.

“I wish to renew the invitation to join the Global Call to Action to enhance investment in science and technology, align research agendas with the MSR Action Plan and promote deep-sea literacy,” Ms. Gomez Duran concluded.

Together with IOC-UNESCO, the Corporate Data Group, The United Nations Global Compact, Fugro and HUB Ocean, ISA was the co-organizing entity of the satellite event entitled How to harness private sector data to boost ocean science and drive a sustainable ocean economy: guidelines and benefits.

Joining the discussion to present the work of ISA in the field of data management and dissemination of research results, Mr. José Dallo Moros, Director of the Office of Environmental Management and Mineral Resources at ISA, highlighted that the launch of DeepData in 2019 enabled ISA to establish the first global database repository for all information collected by contractors in the Area. “As a centralized database, DeepData serves as the best practice example of a private-public partnership. It currently hosts 10 terabytes of crucial environmental data collected in areas beyond national jurisdiction,” he said.

In partnership with the World Maritime University, the Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute and the International Hydrographic Organization, ISA co-organized an event to discuss how Empowering women for the ocean decade: achieving gender equity in ocean sciences and policymaking. This was the opportunity to emphasize the important commitment shown by ISA, its Members and its partners in implementing concrete actions for transformative results leading to enhanced women’s empowerment and leadership in deep-sea science and technology.

In his opening address, Secretary-General Lodge noted that “Over the past few years, we in ISA have intensified our efforts to achieve the full, equal, meaningful and effective participation of women in deep-sea research and related fields. We have been particularly aware of the importance of targeted measures to advance empowerment and leadership of women deep-sea scientists, particularly from developing States.”

“One excellent example of such a targeted measure is the ISA global mentoring programme See Her Exceed (S.H.E.). This programme has been designed to address the underrepresentation of women from developing States in marine deep-sea science by stimulating their personal and professional development to enhance their career opportunities. The mentors, all volunteers, are world-renowned experts in their respective fields. Today, one of our mentors will share her experiences as a deep-sea scientist and reflect on the journey with her mentee so far,” he added.

Ms. Rima Browne, Senior Knowledge Management Officer at the Seabed Minerals Authority of the Cook Islands and winner of the 2023 ISA Secretary-General’s Award for Excellence in Deep-Sea Research, shared with the audience insights on the benefits gained from the capacity development opportunities made available through ISA.

“As a junior scientist from a small island developing State, I and my colleagues have enjoyed diverse capacity-building initiatives facilitated by ISA. These exciting initiatives have significantly progressed our know-how, skills and career opportunities,” she said.

Joining the side event organized by UN-Oceans members entitled The BBNJ Agreement and its linkages with the Ocean Decade, organized by UN-OLA/DOALOS, ISA was able to participate in raising awareness of the synergies between the Ocean Decade and the 2023 Agreement, identify priority actions needed to support their harmonious implementation and inspire new partnerships and initiatives among diverse stakeholders.


About ISA

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is an autonomous international organization mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to protect the seabed for the shared benefit of humankind. As a science-based organization acting as trustee for the protection and sustainable management of the Area and its minerals, ISA is committed to the principle that all countries of the world should benefit from responsible, sustainable and regulated economic activities in the deep seabed, including deep-seabed mining. ISA works to ensure that the voices of all States and stakeholders, including developing States and civil society organizations, are effectively heard in discussions around the sustainable development of the deep seabed.

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