The Secretariat of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), together with Argentina, South Africa, the European Commission, the Secretariat of the Convention for the Biological Diversity (CBD), the Institut français de recherche pour l’exploitation de la mer (Ifremer, France), the National Marine Biodiversity Institute of Korea (MABIK), the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) of IOC/UNESCO and the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), launched a new initiative called the “Sustainable Seabed Knowledge Initiative (SSKI)”.
SSKI is designed to serve as a catalyst to generate, assess and disseminate new deep-sea biodiversity information to inform decision-making processes and ensure effective protection of the marine environment in the Area.
The global launch, which took place during the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference held in Lisbon, Portugal, on 29 June 2022, was the opportunity to raise visibility of the international community’s collective efforts to advance marine scientific research in the Area, in line with the strategic research priorities identified in the ISA Action Plan in support of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, adopted by ISA Members in 2020.
Opening the event, H.E Mr. W. Lodge, Secretary-General of ISA, underscored the importance given by ISA and its members in mobilizing the necessary resources and facilitating global collaboration to advance scientific knowledge and understanding of deep-sea ecosystems of the Area, including biodiversity and ecosystem functions.
“To achieve this, it is necessary to start with a strong and inclusive network of scientists who can collaborate through a global knowledge-sharing platform. This is the purpose of SSKI: to create an interdisciplinary nexus between governments, scientific communities, international organizations and relevant industries to generate data and information on deep-sea biodiversity, facilitate access to these data and make use of them,” Mr. Lodge said.
Acting as Champion for the ISA Action Plan in support of the Decade, Argentina has played a key role in advocating for increased resources in support of knowledge generation. H.E. Mr. Holger Martinsen, Ambassador and Legal Adviser of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina stressed that “the generation and dissemination of new knowledge of deep-sea ecosystems is fundamental if we want to adequately protect the marine environment and its resources, especially considering the ongoing negotiations in several international fora, such as ISA’s draft exploitation regulations and the legally binding instrument for biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).”
“In this sense, it is essential to have solid scientific knowledge in order to be able to sustainably use the resources found on the sea floor while effectively preserve the biodiversity associated with them,” Ambassador Martinsen added.
Mr. Raphael Goulet, Head of the Ocean Governance, Law of the Sea, Arctic Policy Unit of the European Commission also highlighted the importance recognized by the European Union of improving knowledge of seabed ecosystems in the Area for the successful implementation of the European Union’s political priorities. “It is a necessary step to establish a solid baseline for the protection of these ecosystems,” he said. Mr. Goulet also underscored the important role played by ISA in providing a global repository of data and information relating to the Area, the marine environment and marine resources.
Ms. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the Executive Secretary of the CBD Secretariat emphasised the interlinkages between this initiative and the work of the CBD, as taxonomy cuts across nearly all programmes of work of the CBD and that, therefore, increased taxonomic capacity is needed to achieve CBD’s objectives. “The ability to identify deep-sea species through standardized approaches will be a great tool to support the implementation of the forthcoming post-2020 global biodiversity framework,” she said. Ms. Mrema added that SSKI “will create new pathways to strengthen best practices in environmental impact and risk assessment, long-term ocean observing and monitoring, and area-based management, thereby supporting effective protection of the marine environment.”
Dr. Pierre Marie Sarradin, Head of the deep-sea ecosystem study research unit at Ifremer further noted the need to unite national and international scientific teams to advance deep-sea biodiversity research. He also noted the need to increase capacity. In this respect, Mr. Sarradin cited the joint ISA-Ifremer deep-sea taxonomy post-doctoral fellowship. “ISA and Ifremer will welcome a post-doctoral fellow in September 2022 who will work on developing a 3D-imaging method for diversity assessment of meiofauna biodiversity from deep-sea ecosystems targeted for future mineral exploitation,” he said.
Dr. Wan-hyun Choi, President of MABIK welcomed SSKI as an important step forward for ISA to facilitate scientific collaboration for the sustainable management of activities in the Area. “Through SSKI, MABIK will scale up its collaboration with ISA to accelerate the progress towards advancing deep-sea biodiversity knowledge and building scientific capacity of ISA Members and stakeholders, especially developing States,” he said.
“I encourage all of you to join the efforts for greater synergy that fosters coordinated actions to enhance our understanding of deep-sea ecosystems and ability to assess the biodiversity therein,” Mr. Choi added.
Indeed, the event highlighted the importance of actively engaging all key stakeholders, including Member States, the scientific community, competent international organizations and the industry (including ISA contractors) to successfully implement SSKI. Mr. Ward Appeltans, Project Manager at OBIS of IOC/UNESCO and Dr. Ann-Katrien Lescrauwaet, Director of International Relations at The Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ)/ WoRMS further shared concrete examples of such collaborations.
More information about SSKI can be found at https://www.isa.org.jm/sski.
The full statement by ISA Secretary-General at the launch event of SSKI can be found here.
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