A New Approach to Protect Deep Sea Life From Mining

Written by on December 4, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law

Daily Summary

A Pluto skate found on the seafloor dotted with manganese nodules.

A Pluto skate found on the seafloor dotted with manganese nodules. Photo credit: NOAA Ocean Explorer.

An ecosystem-based approach to protect the deep sea from mining
Although large scale deep sea mining hasn’t started yet, at least 12 mining exploration claims, each covering up to 75,000 square kilometers, have already been established in the Pacific Ocean region known as the Clarion-Clipperton fracture zone (CCZ). Manganese nodules found in the deep sea floor are rich in commercially valuable mineral resources, such as copper, nickel, manganese, cobalt and rare-earth elements. The nodules and the surrounding sediments are home to a wide variety of marine life, many of which have yet to be documented, making mining a risky operation. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is in charge of granting access to these mineral resources in addition to establishing and enforcing certain “preservation reference areas” that will remain free from mining. The goal of these areas is to protect biodiversity and ecosystem function in the surrounding seafloor regions. The network of protected areas is the first and largest of its kind, covering 24% of the 6 million square kilometers that comprise the CCZ management area.

New species recovered from Amundsen Sea
During an expedition to the Amundsen Sea off Pine Island Bay in Antarctica, scientists discovered more than 30 new species of marine life. The Amundsen Sea contains several deep troughs and basins, some extending more than 1,600 meters deep, and is one of the least explored areas of the Southern Ocean. For most of the year, the Amundsen Sea Embayment is covered in sea ice, but as summer sea ice extend declines, the scientists were able to navigate right up to the continental ice shelf edge. They collected 5,496 specimens from 275 species. At least 10 percent of the species were new to science and the scientists expect that number to grow with further genetic identification.

Regulators shut down Gulf of Maine shrimp fishery, say stock has ‘collapsed’
For the first time in 35 years, northeastern regulators shut down the Gulf of Maine shrimp fishery, following reports that the stock has fully collapsed and could be driven to extinction with any 2014 catch. Already, the catch limit for 2013 had decreased by 72 percent, but that doesn’t seem to have been enough. With a limited supply, the price shrimpers are receiving for their catch has risen from 54 cents in 2010 to $1.81 in 2013. The shrimp population has been declining over the last several years and most have now agreed that a year with no fishing is necessary to give the shrimp time to recover.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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