Saving the Oceans – the next two and a half years
COP 25 Puerto Rica 2025
Ocean Treaty 30X30 (protect 30% of Oceans by 2030)
Just how important all this is the straight forward fact that oceans occupy two thirds of the Earth’s surface with greater diversity of living organisms than are found on land. It is also an indisputable fact that all of us, not just coastal communities are dependent for our very survival on proper functioning of our ocean lung. Over half of our greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is absorbed by the waters that surround us.
So, it is great credit to Environmental NGOs, especially Greenpeace, over the past few years. The Ocean Treaty was first talked about in 2002, and even through the pandemic, that focus was kept on the UN progress, the various COP meetings, lobbying politicians and governments, and enabling indigenous people to be heard by power at the centre. Keeping the focus through research, lobbying, social media have all been vital. Without wide support of Trusts, local people, influencers and the research much of the work would have been impossible. The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP26, was the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, held at the SEC Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom, from 31 October to 13 November 2021. The president of the conference was UK cabinet minister Alok Sharma. We on Arran even supported COP 26, in pouring rain.
Greenpeace and other climate supporters had the capacity to motivate those who will help deliver the goals and that has been evident in winning the treaty in Montreal by those interactions, political insight and knowledge, being well plugged into research institutions with excellent results in wide areas, impactful investigations which help in building up country supporters around the world and of course getting celebrities on board too. Last year, Greenpeace took action against Spanish fishing vessels out on the High Seas. They often claim to be targeting sword fish, but in reality they are catching sharks on huge long lines that can be way over 40km long, with thousands of hooks. Greenpeace took action, cutting and confiscating one of those lines, freeing sharks and stopping more from being caught. As a result, the Spanish public became very engaged demanding ocean protection from their government. As a result of such campaigns, Greenpeace has grown its support network to 5 million being involved. Getting us all involved and informed is vital if the will of the people is considered and not just the voices of big business, and rampant, short term capitalism tied in with politicians without the political will to stand up for the oceans.
BUT, there is a very long way still to go! What is needed now is formal adoption, ratification by at least 60 countries which will be no mean feat in the short time, and good progress to ocean sanctuaries in development by the next COP 27 in Costa Rica in 2025. Always remembering it is only 7 years until 30X30. Collaboration with other NGOs and us, the public, will also be important to coalesce and work together to maximise effort as a whole. This will involve politics and research on the seas, filming and confronting those fisheries flouting the law over illegal and overfishing. For example, we know photos of sharks as above stirred the consciences of people in Spain and indeed around the world.
Ongoing work to protect the Oceans: One of this year’s challenges
What is deep sea mining?
Deep sea mining is the practice of removing metals and minerals from the ocean’s seabed. Thousands of metres below the surface, deposits of these metals and minerals like manganese, nickel and cobalt have built up on the seafloor into potato-sized nodules over millions of years. Deep sea mining is a very new industry. Apart from a few small tests, no actual mining has happened yet. But the companies involved are preparing to start full-scale production. And governments are deciding whether to let them go ahead.
To mine these metals, gigantic machines weighing more than a blue whale would scoop deposits from the deep ocean floor. They’d then pump the mined material up to a ship through up to several kilometres of tubing. Sand, seawater and other mineral waste would then be pumped back into the water.
What are the problems with deep sea mining?
Like mining on land, deep sea mining is extremely destructive. But mining the ocean floor is hugely risky for so many reasons – because the impacts are far more difficult to predict.
The full environmental impacts of deep seabed mining are likely to be highly damaging, both within and well beyond the areas being mined. The oceans are facing more pressures now than at any time in human history, and are severely threatened by overfishing and the climate crisis. Our oceans absorb and store carbon, and give more than three billion people their livelihoods.
The metal and mineral deposits themselves are an important habitat for marine life. The nodules containing these metals are found 4,000 metres deep in the Pacific Ocean – where the ghost octopus lays its eggs. The deep ocean is hugely important in the fight against climate change. It absorbs and stores over 90% of the excess heat and approximately 38% of the carbon dioxide generated by humanity. Risking this delicate system during a climate emergency could have irreversible impacts on the climate.
International Seabed Authority, or ISA
The ISA was founded in 1994 through the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and is headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica. It makes the rules for deep sea mining, because the seabed is outside of countries’ national borders. The ISA’s officials also seem to be pushing for companies to be allowed to start deep sea mining. This is despite the ISA’s mandate to protect the global oceans, and only allow mining to start if it can benefit humanity. The UK government sponsors two exploration licences, both granted to UK Seabed Resources. These cover over 133,000 square kilometres (an area bigger than England) in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. The UK’s licences cover a larger area than any other country, except China. International opposition to the deep sea mining industry continues to grow. The Zone (CCZ) spans 4.5 million square kilometers (1.7 million square miles) between Hawaii and Mexico, across the equator, an abyssal plain as wide as the continental United States and punctuated by seamounts. Lying atop the muddy bottom or embedded just beneath it are trillions of potato-size polymetallic nodules. The area is rich in potato-sized mineral deposits loaded with copper, nickel, manganese and other metals. They lie on the deep sea bed in huge fields. Although test mining is underway, commercial deep sea mining is not yet allowed by international law. The International Seabed Authority has granted 31 contracts for exploration of opportunities. These cover over 1.5 million km² – an area four times the size of Germany. Most of these contracts cover exploration for deposits in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ).
Businesses including BMW, Volvo, Google and Samsung have committed to avoid ocean-mined minerals. Many governments are now calling for either a ban or moratorium, including France, Spain, Germany and New Zealand. The UK is becoming increasingly isolated in not calling for a ban or a global moratorium, which is a temporary ban. This is used to give regulators more time to gather evidence and understand the risks of a proposed activity. Scientists around the world have also opposed the industry. More than 700 from 44 countries signatories on an open call to pause deep sea mining.
Although test mining is underway, commercial deep sea mining is not yet allowed by international law. It is vital that it is kept that way, and that deep sea mining is not permitted. See this excellent article in The Guardian by Michael Segalov.
What about nearer to Home, here in Scotland?
We need to stand up and support the action of Open Seas
Below is a statement from Phil Taylor of Open Seas 22 May 2023
“Open Seas believe the Scottish Government has a legal duty to consider the marine environment when issuing new licences for scallop dredging and bottom trawling. But right now, it’s failing in that duty – and fragile marine habitats are paying the price. So, we’re asking Scotland’s highest court to step in.
We have evidence that damaging fishing practices like scallop dredging and bottom trawling are causing significant damage to fragile marine habitats in our coastal seas. We have worked with divers and fishermen from coastal communities across Scotland to compile evidence of the destruction that the Scottish Government has a legal duty to prevent.
We have had extensive correspondence with the Scottish Government on this issue. But nothing has changed. Ministers say that legislation which may take up to a year to be introduced will resolve the problem. We say that’s not good enough.
In the meantime, the destruction of fragile marine habitats continues. These habitats are vital spawning grounds for many species of fish and support an incredible variety of marine life – some of it already at risk, like the critically endangered flapper skate. If we don’t protect their habitats now, we could lose these species forever.
Click here to read more about our legal challenge & how you can help.
We are grateful to Wild Justice, https://wildjustice.org.uk/ who are helping us resource this work, and for the support of divers, sustainable fishermen and community organisations across Scotland who want to ensure their local marine environment is protected for future generations.”
Copyright (C) 2023 Open Seas (SC045699). All rights reserved.
So, we ALL have a lot to do in the times ahead to ensure Scotland’s marine waters and the wider oceans are protected and supported by governments and the wider communities.
Thanks to Greenpeace and Open Seas.
Featured image credit: Greenpeace.org.uk