During a virtual event held on World Oceans Day on 8 June 2022, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) highlighted the contributions of exploration contractors and the scientific community and the data and information they collect in the international seabed area (the Area) in support of the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The event was attended by over a hundred participants and featured a movie of the deep sea made up footage and images provided by ISA contractors, presentations by the Government of Mauritius, Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR), the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources of Germany (BGR), JPI Oceans’ MiningImpact2 project, Fugro and the HafenCity Universität of Hamburg and many others, and concluded with the announcement of the winners of ISA art competition on the theme of deep-sea exploration.
Under UNCLOS, ISA is responsible for organizing and controlling all mineral related activities carried out in the Area. ISA also has the specific and exclusive mandate to promote and encourage marine scientific research in the Area and to coordinate the research results when available.
Since 1994, in accordance with UNCLOS, the 1994 Agreement and the rules, regulations and procedures of ISA, ISA has issued 31 contracts for deep-sea mineral exploration in the Area to 21 different contractors, including 10 from developing States.
Exploration activities consist primarily of geological studies, mineral resources assessment, bathymetric measurements and environmental surveys and sampling. They can also include the development and testing of mining technology and mineral processing techniques.
During the event, GSR presented the results of its collaboration with BGR and MiningImpact2 project to conduct an independent scientific monitoring of the impacts of its 2021 trial of a purpose-built prototype nodule collector in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (Pacific Ocean). Panelists discussed the unprecedented amount of data and insight produced that will inform the responsible management of deep-seabed resources.
Opening the second part of the event dedicated to the launch of AREA2030, a new joint initiative by ISA and International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), the Secretary-General of ISA, H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge, recalled that a fundamental part of the exploration work carried out by contractors is to perform high-resolution bathymetric surveys of exploration areas and that the data must be submitted to ISA in accordance with the terms of the exploration contracts. He then announced the signing of a data sharing agreement with IHO on 7 June 2022 . “Over the years, we have collected vast amounts of high-resolution bathymetric and sonar data which give us a very detailed understanding of the seafloor in these areas. It is therefore a real pleasure to be able to contribute this data through IHO to help improve the mapping of the world’s seabed and the general knowledge and understanding of the world’s oceans”.
AREA2030 aims at facilitating the contribution by exploration contractors of high-resolution bathymetric data of the Area. The agreement between ISA and IHO will streamline the transfer of data to the IHO database and make it available in the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO).
Dr. Mathias Jonas, Secretary-General of IHO called the data sharing agreement with ISA “historical” and underscored the importance of the partnership which “will set an example for other custodians of seabed data that could contribute to the delivery of the UN Decade objectives and the 2030 Agenda.”
“Thanks to ISA, we are now well underway to create a more comprehensive image of the topography of our planet, that is no longer limited to continents and coastal waters,” he said.
The first submission under the AREA2030 initiative comprises about 7 terabytes of multibeam echosounder data and ancillary data from four ISA contractors – the Interoceanmetal Joint Organization, Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR) of Belgium, Japan’s Deep Ocean Resources Development Co. Ltd. (DORD) and the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources of Germany (BGR). Oher contractors are in the process of finalizing their voluntary contributions.
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