Submitted by leannem on Fri, 11/23/2018 - 11:19
November 23, 2018 by leannem
Island and Ocean Ecosystems

Aichi Biodiversity Target 4: By 2020, at the latest, Governments, business and stakeholders at all levels have taken steps to achieve or have implemented plans for sustainable production and consumption and have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits.

19 November 2018, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt - The seabed beneath the Pacific Ocean could be worth millions of dollars in valuable minerals that are in high demand across the world, making it a potential mining site.  

Paving a way forward to ensure biodiversity protection and conservation is considered in the mining industry was a topic of discussion for the High Level Segment of the 14th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt this month.

The Pacific islands have complete ownership over any seabed mining or exploratory activities within their large continental shelf areas. They can also say no to any mining activities if they decide that any environmental impacts or possible risks associated with seabed mining outweigh the benefits.

“Deep-sea ecosystems are under threat from multiple stressors, such as climate change impacts and resource exploitation such as fishing, mining, and oil and gas.  Across the Pacific, there is a widely recognised need for new industries to overcome poverty and to support economic and social development,” stated Mr Paula Ma’u, Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications of Tonga, at the High Level Segment.

“Deep-sea mining is seen to provide a potential source of economic growth.  Running counter to this are concerns about potential environmental and social impacts and a lack of communal benefit from extractive projects.”

Tonga has made a commitment to designate 30% of its EEZ as a Marine Protected Areas by 2030 in pursuit of Aichi Target 11 and Sustainable Development Goal 14; in addition, it intends to designate whale sanctuaries within its EEZ; complete the development of a Marine Spatial Plan, and a Sustainable Oceans Policy by 2020.  

Tonga has also entered into 15-year contracts with the International Seabed Authority and has exploration licenses granted within their Exclusive Economic Zone.  In 2014 Tonga passed the Tonga Seabed Minerals Act, to regulate exploration and exploitation activities within its national jurisdiction.

“The industry presents a complex governance challenge with our small government agencies and limited resources for environmental assessment, monitoring and enforcement.  The potential environmental impacts of mining activities need to be further investigated, including the likelihood of deep-sea ecosystems recovering following mining,” said Mr Ma’u.  

“Prospecting, exploration and mining can create significant marine noise, affecting cetaceans,  and possibly other marine species, and our Tourism industry is highly dependent on whale watching activities.  Because of the high degree of uniqueness and high endemism in these environments, impacts of mining on biodiversity are likely to be significant and difficult to reverse.”

Tonga has a multi-million dollar whale watching industry and reaffirmed their commitment to the protection of Whales by signing the Pacific Whale Declaration along with 12 other Members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme. The declaration was an outcome of the Whales in a Changing Ocean Conference hosted by Tonga in 2017.

 At the High Level Segment Tonga sought support from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity in their endeavour to invest in the blue economy, and marine conservation and management in light of deep sea mining and exploration.

“We recognise the potential benefits and risks of deep-sea mining activities and welcome further resources and assistance to better understand these.  Unless managed carefully, deep sea mining activities could have negative impacts on the achievement of a number of SDGs and Aichi Targets.  If well managed, mining activities can contribute to these achievements, by promoting economic productivity and job creation,” presented Mr Ma’u.

“The technological and financial requirements to investigate and understand deep-sea science is too great for one country to address alone. International collaboration is critical to share the costs and benefits of scientific research so that they can be applied for conservation and sustainable development.”

The High Level Segment to the 14th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP14) took place on 13 – 15 November, 2018.  This is followed by the CBD COP14 from 17 -20 November, 2018.  The host of this event is Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. - #CBDCOP14

For further information on the CBD COP14:

For further information on the Mainstreaming Biodiversity in the Energy and Mining Sector at the High Level Segment: