Monday [3 June], Greece announced its support for a moratorium or precautionary pause on deep-sea mining. The position comes as part of a new declaration between Greece and France, signed in Athens, signalling the two governments’ joint effort to build an alliance for higher ambition on ocean protection. 

This is the first time that Greece has taken a clear position on deep-sea mining, having been largely quiet while 25 other countries around the world voiced their staunch opposition to the prospect of the destructive industry. The announcement comes just weeks after Greece announced it was banning destructive bottom-trawling in its protected waters. 

As the only country calling for a flat-out ban on deep-sea mining – and one of the most vocal – France’s involvement with the announcement comes naturally and shows the French government’s commitment to motivating more countries to back a halt on the emerging industry. Spearheaded by early opposers like France, Europe’s stance on deep-sea mining has shifted significantly from advocating for exploitation to supporting a precautionary approach. Greece is now the 12th European country to oppose deep-sea mining, after the Kingdom of Denmark announced its precautionary pause position in March this year. 

Next up: Italy? 

Just across the Ionian, civil society is mobilising to urge Italy to back a moratorium and position the country as a leader on ocean issues.  

Italy has yet to express a clear position on deep-sea mining. However, at the 2023 International Seabed Authority (ISA) Assembly, Italy argued that deep-sea mining should not go ahead if it will have harmful effects on the marine environment.  

The ISA, who will meet in Assembly again this July in Jamaica, is the UN-affiliated body responsibly for governing the seabed in international waters. The 2024 ISA Assembly will be the first time it discusses a General Policy on the protection of the marine environment, which is the legal tool needed to impose a precautionary pause on deep-sea mining in international waters.  

Asking Italy to support such a General Policy, Seas At Risk, its member Legambiente, and six other non-governmental groups sent a joint letter to ministers Gilberto Pichetto Fratin, Nello Musumeci and Antonio Tajani on Friday, 31 May.  

Countries like Italy play a crucial role in influencing the ISA to transition from an extractive to a protective approach to seabed minerals. In the face of the escalating threat of the deep sea becoming a new extractive frontier and geopolitical battleground, a moratorium stands as the most effective way to safeguard the ocean for future generations.