Getting to the bottom of things: Can mining the deep sea be sustainable? – by Anna Metaxas and Verena Tunnicliffe (The Conversation – September 8, 2019)

It is completely dark, just above freezing cold and the pressure is crushing: this is the deep-sea floor. Food is very scarce in this huge region, yet a great diversity of animals have adapted to exploit and recycle resources and thrive within it.

As technology enabled us to penetrate deeper into the ocean in the past 50 years, we discovered extraordinary ecosystems: hydrothermal vents support lush communities of unique animals, seamounts foster coral and sponge forests and abyssal plains continue to yield biodiversity novelties.

Metal-rich ores were also discovered in these same environments — and in quantities that sparked commercial interest. These deposits are now the targets for exploitation by mining companies both within and beyond national waters.

Canada is a member of the International Seabed Authority, which is developing mineral exploitation regulations for the deep sea. It shares responsibility in the potential environmental impacts of the deep-sea mining industry.

Our research teams study deep-sea ecosystems in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. We also engage in marine conservation efforts and are strong advocates for scientific input for informed decision making.

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