Next week, experts and stakeholders from across the world will be gathering together in Berlin to discuss a draft environmental regulation for deep sea mining. The fundamental question, i.e. whether or not there is a need for this industry, bearing in mind the global objective to move to a sustainable future, is however lacking from the agenda.

Earlier this year, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) issued a discussion paper to underpin a stakeholder discussion on the drafting of environmental regulations for deep sea mining. The paper will be discussed during a workshop on the ISA Environmental Management Strategy for the Area in Berlin from 19th–24th March 2017.

With socio-economic benefits that are bound to be short term (and are still highly uncertain), and the risk for irreversible and significant environmental impacts, deep sea mining imposes a serious threat to sustainability. A new Seas At Risk leaflet ‘Deep sea mining? Stop and think!’ outlines our arguments why deep sea mining has no place in the world’s Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. The precautionary principle advises to prioritise sustainable alternatives to avoid our economy to become locked-into this high risk technology.

Alternatives to deep sea mining are available indeed, and can be found in a transition of economies towards more sustainable models. Till date, however, such alternative options have hardly been explored. A comprehensive and informed public debate about the need for deep sea mining has not been held either. It is high time we have this debate in a democratic and participatory way, especially bearing in mind that by law, the deep sea and its resources are the common heritage of mankind.

NOAA stunning octopod credits to Bruce Strickrott Expedition to the Deep Slope B