On 6 September 2022, the Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge, delivered a keynote address for the opening of the “Challenger 150” Conference organized by the UK Natural History Museum together with Imperial College and the Challenger Society for Marine Science.
On 7th December 1872, HMS Challenger departed Sheerness, the location of the Royal Navy Dockyard in Kent, England, on a four-year global scientific expedition across the world’s oceans. It is generally recognized as the first truly interdisciplinary grand scientific project, international in scope and involving the study of the physics, chemistry, biology and geology of the global ocean.
ISA participated as headline sponsor of the three-day international conference, held in London, which gathered more than five hundred experts and featured more than two hundred and fifty presentations by internationally recognized experts, including on deep-sea related matters.
In his statement, Secretary-General Lodge underscored ISA’s ongoing strong commitment to international marine scientific research in support of the conservation and sustainable management of the Area and its resources.
Reflecting on the different connections existing between the work of ISA and the Challenger expedition, Secretary-General Lodge noted that “As every student of marine geology knows, the immediate connection between ISA and the Challenger expedition is that HMS Challenger recovered large quantities of hitherto unknown manganese nodules from the seafloor of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans”.
“Just as HMS Challenger ushered in a new era of oceanographic exploration, so the decision to internationalize the deep seabed ushered in a new era of marine science and technology for the benefit of all humanity,” he added, alluding to the progressive development made in the course of 1960s in the development of the legal regime of the Area which eventually led to the adoption of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982, and the recognition of the Area and its resources as the common heritage of humankind on behalf of which ISA is mandated to act.
After highlighting the advances realized through marine scientific research and exploration in the past 50 years including in relation to discovery of new mineral resources, such as polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich crusts, the progress in understanding hydrothermal circulation as the prime process for crustal cooling at mid-ocean ridges and the high number of hydrothermal vent sites along ocean ridges as well as improved understanding of mid-ocean ridge geometries, formations, spreading rates, overlaps, tectonic and volcanic activities, Mr. Lodge stressed three fundamental differences in the way ocean science is approached today.
“First is the fact that, thanks to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, there is a globally accepted legal regime governing and enabling international cooperation in ocean science. In this context, ISA has been equipped with a series of unique and complementary responsibilities including to manage activities in the deep seabed, protect the marine environment, promote, and encourage marine scientific research and share the benefits based on equity. The second fundamental difference that was noticeably absent from the HMS Challenger expedition is the participation of women in ocean science. Here again, ISA is proud to have been a leader on that front and to be taking practical steps to identify and implement specific actions that will result in women’s empowerment and leadership. The third fundamental difference is a recognition of the need for diversity and a focus on equity and capacity development,” said Mr. Lodge.
On that last point, Secretary-General Lodge stressed the critical need to ensure that consideration be given to the specific needs of the most vulnerable groups. “Today we recognize that the interests of all humanity in the ocean and the conservation and sustainable use of its resources make it imperative that the global governance regime reflects the maritime interests of all States, whether coastal or landlocked, and with due consideration for the specific needs of the most vulnerable groups, such as the landlocked countries and small island developing States,” he said.
Dr. Adrian Glover, Co-Chair of the Local Organizing Committee commented “We were delighted to welcome a delegation from ISA to the Challenger 150 Conference, where the ocean science community looked back over the last 150 years of oceanography and forward to the next 150 years. The ISA performs a critical role in managing the seabed beyond national jurisdiction. Engagement between ISA and the scientific community is vital to ensure the protection of the marine environment and to encourage scientific research in regions of the seabed being explored for future resources. We fully support ISA’s commitments on these areas and also on its leadership on promoting women in science and a focus on diversity, equity and capacity development.”
The written version of the Secretary-General’s Statement is accessible here: Statement – ISA Challenger 150 Conference
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