In their joint advice on ‘Deep-sea Mining in International Waters’, three EU Fisheries Advisory Councils (Long Distance, Pelagic and North Western Waters) are calling for a moratorium or prohibition of deep-sea mining in international waters.

This new advice represents an update of the Long Distance Advisory Council’s 2019 advice to reflect recent scientific developments. It highlights concerns raised by scientists, the fishing industry and environmental organisations about the potentially severe impacts of deep-sea mining on fisheries, fish and other species in the oceans, including large-scale and irreversible loss of marine biodiversity.

The Advisory Councils call on the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to prohibit the exploitation of marine minerals in international waters until ‘the effects of deep-sea mining on the marine environment, biodiversity and human activities have been sufficiently researched, the risks are understood, and the technologies and operational practices are able to demonstrate no serious harm to the environment, no marine biodiversity loss nor degradation of marine ecosystems.’

The Councils’ advice adds weight to similar calls from the European Parliament, the IUCN, and those of NGOs, scientists and private companies.

The Fisheries Councils, as did the European Parliament, also call on the European Commission to stop funding the development of seabed mining technology. However, the European Commission, in its Communication on the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, stated it will continue funding research on ‘environmentally-friendly’ technologies. An analysis of EU deep-sea mining related research can be found in the report At a crossroads: Europe’s role in deep-sea mining.

The precautionary approach and public interest for a common good must prevail over individual/oligopolistic commercial interests coming from private companies looking for short-term profits – Joint LDAC-PELAC-NWWAC advice – deep-sea mining in international waters, November 2021.

The Advisory Councils ask the Commission and Member States to step-up their involvement in the ISA and promote the moratorium on the international agenda. Noting concerns about the ISA’s lack of transparency and environmental capacity, they advise a review of its working methods and decision-making. They also seek clarification of the implementation of the ‘two-year trigger clause’ which was recently invoked by Nauru. This means that DeepGreen/The Metals Company could possibly obtain a licence to mine nodules in the Clarion Clipperton Zone in 2023, even in the absence of international regulations for exploitation.

Finally, the Advisory Councils call on the Commission and the Member States to promote a circular economy based on the 4Rs of Sustainable Living, i.e. Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, and to re-focus economies on sufficiency, wellbeing and fair and equitable distribution. Numerous ideas for this are outlined in Seas At Risk’s report on Breaking Free From Mining.