Ahead of the annual meeting of the International Seabed Authority, Seas at Risk member the MARE Foundation called on the Polish government to cease its sponsorship of deep-sea exploration in areas beyond its national jurisdiction. Poland, however, ignored this appeal, instead continuing with its application for a new deep-sea mineral exploration contract in an area that the UN Convention on Biodiversity has declared to be of special importance for the health of oceans. This new contract was approved by the International Seabed Authority on 10th August.

In a letter to the Polish government, the MARE Foundation urged Poland to re-examine its support for the further development of deep-sea mining, calling for a shift towards sustainable alternatives to deep-sea mining and investment in the circular economy. The Polish government had previously undertaken a deep-sea mining exploration contract with the International Seabed Authority. The 2016 expiry of that contract prompted the Ministry of the Environment to apply for a new exploration licence in an area within the hydrothermal vent fields along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the Atlantic Ocean.

Deep-sea mining poses a serious threat to global sustainability and the health of the marine ecosystem. Of considerable concern is the location of the new Polish exploration contract in what the UN Convention on Biodiversity has identified as an “Ecologically or Biologically Significant Area”, i.e. an area that gives essential support to the healthy functioning of oceans. Worryingly, the International Seabed Authority were unaware of the status of the area yet, despite having it subsequently drawn to their attention by NGOs, nonetheless proceeded to approve the contract, constituting an unprecedented breach of the precautionary principle.

In addition, the MARE Foundation began an online campaign to raise awareness among the Polish people of their government’s involvement in deep-sea mining. The campaign began with petitioning the Minister of the Environment to cease sponsorship and support for this activity, gathering 640 signatures in two weeks. Together with the Polish NGO, Institute of Global Responsibility, the MARE Foundation plans further public communication and awareness-raising activities to encourage the government to withdraw its support for deep-sea mining.

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