In a landmark decision, the Portuguese Parliament has approved a legislative proposal for a moratorium on deep-sea mining (DSM) in Portuguese waters until 2050. The announcement this October, which came after months of intense advocacy by defenders of the deep sea, marks a significant step towards protecting the delicate deep marine life and ecosystems.

It is the first time that a majority of political parties in Portugal have taken a clear stance on DSM, marking a noteworthy victory for marine conservation efforts. The approval has garnered attention from the media, with organisations like Seas At Risk member Sciaena, ANP|WWF, and the Portuguese SOA hub issuing celebratory statements. Now, attention turns to the content of the final text, which is still to be negotiated.

The campaign to get a moratorium on DSM has not been driven by civil society organisations alone: in April, the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Azores unanimously approved a resolution recommending the regional Government to implement a moratorium on DSM until 2050 while asking the Government of the Republic to do the same.

The proposal sends a positive signal about the intentions of the Assembly of the Republic to protect the deep sea. After the decision of the Regional Assembly of the Azores in April, this was the much-needed next step in Portugal to prevent the advancement of an activity that is expected to be highly destructive of the marine environment.

This pivotal decision follows Portugal’s earlier support for a “precautionary pause” on the development of a global mining code in international waters during the International Seabed Authority (ISA) Assembly in July earlier this year.  The ISA is a UN-affiliated body responsible for governing the seabed in the high seas. This position is now shared with 22 other countries, a number which has significantly increased from previous ISA assemblies.

Portugal’s historic decision underscores the growing global concern for the preservation of deep-sea ecosystems. Undoubtedly, the actions of Portugal will encourage more countries to follow suit.

Photo courtesy ©  IMAR/Okeanos-UAc