The UK Government has formed a new scientific network aimed at understanding the environmental impacts of deep-sea mining.

The environmental science network is set to gather scientific data and conduct research to assess the consequences of such mining activities on marine ecosystems.

As part of the initiative, eligible experts are invited to join the network, contributing their knowledge to address the current gaps in evidence regarding deep-sea mining’s effects on the environment.

This collaboration of the UK’s environmental scientists is expected to ensure the enforcement of the highest environmental standards in the sector.

The network’s establishment aligns with the UK’s recent support for a moratorium on deep-sea mining exploitation licences by the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

The UK noted that it will neither sponsor nor support any licences until there is enough scientific data to understand the impacts on marine life and until the ISA develops and adopts robust environmental regulations.

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Its commitment to ocean conservation is underlined by its efforts to protect at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030 through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs).

Additionally, the UK is aiding developing nations in marine protection through the £500m ($629m) Blue Planet Fund, which supports the restoration of vital habitats like mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses.

The country is also combatting plastic pollution, with recent consultations on banning plastic-containing wet wipes, aiming to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042.

In English waters, the UK has designated the first three Highly Protected Marine Areas, prohibiting all damaging activities to allow ecosystems to recover and enhance marine biodiversity.

Furthermore, a comprehensive network of 181 MPAs now safeguards 40% of English seas, including recent byelaw implementations that restrict bottom-towed fishing gear over sensitive habitats in 13 MPAs.

UK Marine Minister Lord Benyon said: “The UK is committed to protecting the world’s ocean and improving the conservation of our marine ecosystems, so it is important that we ensure the best environmental standards are in place so damaging activities like deep-sea mining are strongly regulated. 

“This new network is a further step in showing how we can use the scientific expertise that is on offer to protect and improve the conservation of our marine biodiversity.”