The workshop entitled “Development of a regional environmental management plan for the Area of the Indian Ocean, with a focus on the Mid-Ocean Ridges and Central Indian Ocean Basin,” organized by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the National Institute of Ocean Technology of India, opened yesterday in Chennai, India.

The five-day workshop, hosted by the National Institute of Ocean Technology of India from 1 to 5 May 2023 and chaired by three members of the Legal and Technical Commission of ISA – Dr. Malcolm Clark (New Zealand), Dr. Ramesh Sethuraman (India) and Dr. Se-Jong Ju (Republic of Korea) – aims to review and synthesize the scientific knowledge for the development of a regional environmental management plan (REMP) in the Indian Ocean.

ISA has issued four contracts for the exploration for polymetallic sulphides and one for the exploration for polymetallic nodules in the region to date. The workshop is attended by 32 experts from 15 countries, nominated by ISA Member States, observers and contractors, and academic institutions. The participants will review the existing scientific knowledge and environmental data related to geological, oceanographical and biological aspects of the marine environment and human activities in the area beyond national jurisdiction in the Indian Ocean. The workshop will be informed and supported by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-National Institute of Oceanography of India, Duke University and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

In his welcome remarks, ISA Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge, underlined the importance of the workshop in the implementation of ISA’s mandate under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment from harmful impacts that may arise from activities in the Area, following a precautionary approach.

“The REMPs are the most important tools at our disposal to achieve this objective,” Mr. Lodge said.

In 2012, the ISA Council adopted the first REMP for the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. The Council has repeatedly emphasized the need to establish REMPs in priority areas where deep-sea mineral exploration is taking place. Workshops have been held to develop REMPs for the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Northwest Pacific Ocean. This workshop is the first dedicated to the Indian Ocean.

“The work you are doing will be critical to helping the Legal and Technical Commission formulate a REMP using the best available science and scientific information for this region through a transparent and collective effort involving exploration contractors, the scientific community and other knowledge holders from this region,” Mr. Lodge added.

Dr. M. Ravichandran, Secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences of the Government of India, reaffirmed India’s active participation in all organs of ISA and its commitment to creating robust deep-sea mining regulations that “ensure the protection of the marine environment, preservation of biodiversity and utilization of the common heritage of humankind.”

“We must harness ocean resources in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. We can develop an environmental management plan that will ensure the safeguarding of our ocean ecosystem functions through coordinated research and collaboration,” Dr. Ravichandran said.

The results of this workshop will provide input for the next workshop, which will focus on potential policy and management measures. The results of both expert workshops will be considered by the Legal and Technical Commission when drafting the REMP for the Area of the Indian Ocean.

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Ms. Stefanie Neno, Communications Specialist, ISA,