Scientific rationale and international obligations for protection of active hydrothermal vent ecosystems from deep-sea mining

Type Article
Date 2018-04
Language English
Author(s) Van Dover C. L.1, Arnaud-Haond SophieORCID2, Gianni M.3, Helmreich S.4, Huber J. A.5, Jaeckel A. L.6, 7, Metaxas A.8, Pendleton L. H.9, 10, Petersen S.11, Ramirez-Llodra E.12, Steinberg P. E.13, 14, Tunnicliffe V.15, 16, Yamamoto H.17
Affiliation(s) 1 : Duke Univ, Nicholas Sch Environm, Div Marine Sci & Conservat, Beaufort, NC 28516 USA.
2 : Stn Biol Sete, F-34200 Sete, France.
3 : Deep Sea Conservat Coalit, NL-1077 KB Amsterdam, Netherlands.
4 : MIT, Anthropol Dept, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02142 USA.
5 : Woods Hole Oceanog Inst, Marine Chem & Geochem, Woods Hole, MA 02543 USA.
6 : Macquarie Univ, Macquarie Law Sch, N Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia.
7 : Macquarie Univ, Macquarie Marine Res Ctr, N Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia.
8 : Dalhousie Univ, Dept Oceanog, Halifax, NS B3H 4R2, Canada.
9 : World Wildlife Fund, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
10 : Univ Brest, CNRS, AMURE, IUEM,Ifremer,UMR 6308, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
11 : GEOMAR Helmholtz Ctr Ocean Res, D-24148 Kiel, Germany.
12 : Norwegian Inst Water Res, N-0349 Oslo, Norway.
13 : Univ Durham, Ctr Borders Res, Dept Geog, Durham DH1 3LE, England.
14 : Univ Durham, Ctr Borders Res, IBRU, Durham DH1 3LE, England.
15 : Univ Victoria, Dept Biol, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada.
16 : Univ Victoria, Sch Earth & Ocean Sci, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada.
17 : Japan Agcy Marine Earth Sci & Technol, R&D Ctr Submarine Resources, Natushima Cho 2-15, Yokosuka, Kanagawa 2370061, Japan.
Source Marine Policy (0308-597X) (Elsevier Sci Ltd), 2018-04 , Vol. 90 , P. 20-28
DOI 10.1016/j.marpol.2018.01.020
WOS© Times Cited 108
Keyword(s) Polymetallic sulfides, Seafloor Massive Sulfides (SMS), International Seabed Authority (ISA), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VME), Precautionary approach, Deep-sea conservation

There is increasing interest in mining minerals on the seabed, including seafloor massive sulfide deposits that form at hydrothermal vents. The International Seabed Authority is currently drafting a Mining Code, including environmental regulations, for polymetallic sulfides and other mineral exploitation on the seabed in the area beyond national jurisdictions. This paper summarizes 1) the ecological vulnerability of active vent ecosystems and aspects of this vulnerability that remain subject to conjecture, 2) evidence for limited mineral resource opportunity at active vents, 3) non-extractive values of active vent ecosystems, 4) precedents and international obligations for protection of hydrothermal vents, and 5) obligations of the International Seabed Authority under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea for protection of the marine environment from the impacts of mining. Heterogeneity of active vent ecosystems makes it extremely challenging to identify “representative” systems for any regional, area-based management approach to conservation. Protection of active vent ecosystems from mining impacts (direct and indirect) would set aside only a small fraction of the international seabed and its mineral resources, would contribute to international obligations for marine conservation, would have non-extractive benefits, and would be a precautionary approach.

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Van Dover C. L., Arnaud-Haond Sophie, Gianni M., Helmreich S., Huber J. A., Jaeckel A. L., Metaxas A., Pendleton L. H., Petersen S., Ramirez-Llodra E., Steinberg P. E., Tunnicliffe V., Yamamoto H. (2018). Scientific rationale and international obligations for protection of active hydrothermal vent ecosystems from deep-sea mining. Marine Policy, 90, 20-28. Publisher's official version : , Open Access version :