Researchers from the Center for Ocean Solutions in the US and co-authors from various global institutions have proposed a new strategy to extract deepsea resources without damaging the environment.
The paper has been published this week to inform upcoming discussions by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which proposes to extract minerals without affecting the diverse seabed habitats.
The discussions are expected to lead the way for future deepsea environmental protection and mining regulations.
Center for Ocean Solutions lead author Lisa Wedding said: "Our purpose is to point out that the ISA has an important opportunity to create networks of no-mining marine protected areas (MPAs) as part of the regulatory framework they are considering at their July meeting.
"The establishment of regional MPA networks in the deepsea could potentially benefit both mining and biodiversity interests by providing more economic certainty and ecosystem protection."
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) said that the deep seabed is legally a part of the 'common heritage of mankind'.
According to the researchers, the seabed authority has granted 26 mining exploration contracts covering more than one million square kilometers of seabed since 2001.
In the last four years, 18 of the total number of contracts were granted.
As part of its strategic plans to protect deep-seabed habitats and manage mining impacts, the ISA needs to take a precautionary approach, and establishing networks of MPAs prior to granting of additional large claim areas for deep seabed mining.
University of Hawaii at Manoa co-author and professor of oceanography Craig Smith said: "Deepsea areas targeted by mining claims frequently harbor high biodiversity and fragile habitats, and may have very slow rates of recovery from physical disturbance."
Image: Relicanthus sp is a newly discovered species from a new order of Cnidaria collected at 4,100m in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCZ). Photo: courtesy of Craig Smith and Diva Amon, ABYSSLINE Project.