Sustainable Seabed Knowledge Initiative

SSKI logo

The Sustainable Seabed Knowledge Initiative (SSKI) of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) aims to transform our understanding of the planet's largest ecosystem, the deep sea. Through generation of new knowledge, and innovation in the availability and flow of data and expertise, SSKI will strengthen the scientific foundation for effective protection and management of the deep sea in the international seabed area (the Area).

Launched at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, SSKI will describe over one thousand new species from the regions of the Area that are currently being explored for mineral resources and may be targeted for future exploitation. The initiative and the new knowledge it will generate will enable scientists to create maps of life on the seafloor and help us understand and manage the possible effects of anthropogenic activities on deep-sea ecosystems.

New genomic and image libraries, combined with artificial intelligence and app-based field tools will be developed for assessing deep-sea biodiversity. Along with  building capacity, SSKI will create a lasting legacy of knowledge of the deep sea and the deep seabed, benefiting humankind as a whole.


  • The Area covers more than 50% of the world’s seabed
  • ISA contractors are currently exploring regions of the seabed corresponding to about 1% of the total Area
  • As of 2022, 653 animal species have been identified in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (Pacific Ocean) in the Area
  • Nearly 30% of them are new species, formally described in the last 20 years
  • 66 of these new species were described in 2019 alone
  • ISA compiles and shares all environmental data collected by its contractors in the Area in its DeepData database
  • In 2021, ISA became a node of the Ocean Biodiversity Information System of IOC-UNESCO
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Download the SSKI brochure


SSKI and the UN Decade of Ocean Science

SSKI is ISA’s new flagship initiative to support implementation of the ISA Action Plan for Marine Scientific Research in support of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and its six strategic research priorities, adopted by all 168 Members in 2020.

  1. Advancing scientific knowledge and understanding of deep-sea ecosystems, including biodiversity and ecosystems functions, in the Area
  2. Standardizing and innovating methodologies for deep-sea biodiversity assessment, including taxonomic identification and description, in the Area
  3. Facilitating technology development for activities in the Area, including ocean observation and monitoring
  4. Enhancing scientific knowledge and understanding of potential impacts of activities in the Area
  5. Promoting dissemination, exchange and sharing of scientific data and deep-sea research outputs and increasing deep-sea literacy
  6. Strengthening deep-sea scientific capacity of ISA members, in particular developing States

Project scope and expected outputs

New knowledge

  • At least 1,000 new species described by 2030
  • Biogeographic and phylogeographic maps of the Area
  • Increased understanding of connectivity and resilience of deep-sea ecosystems

Integrative and innovative tools

  • New apps and toolkits to facilitate species identification
  • DNA-based and underwater image reference libraries
  • Best practices for baseline data collection and long-term observations

Effective data sharing and use

  • Improved interoperability among existing databases
  • Strengthened data quality control systems and methods
  • Enhanced usability of the ISA DeepData database

Taxonomic capacity

  • A new platform connecting deep-sea taxonomic experts around the world
  • Centres of excellence on deep-sea taxonomy
  • Transfer of technology for taxonomic knowledge generation

Networking and outreach

  • Links to relevant ocean observation systems
  • Scientific and non-scientific publications
  • Workshops, conferences and events

SSKI partners

SSKI brings together leading experts and institutions in deep-sea biodiversity research, monitoring and management to develop new methods and knowledge, creating an unprecedented framework for sustainable development of activities in the Area.

SSKI project partners