VANCOUVER—As the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Conference draws to a close, Oceans North welcomes a new announcement from the government of Canada that showcases their commitment to protecting our ocean.
The joint statement from the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and the Minister of Natural Resources, made at the Leadership Forum on February 9, makes it clear that deep-sea mining—an emerging threat to the ocean’s future—cannot take place in Canadian waters under the current legal regime. It also suggests that Canada will take a firmer stand against deep-sea mining in the high seas, which could begin as early as this summer.
“With its strong commitment to the precautionary approach and concern for the health of the marine environment, Canada’s statement aligns with what scientists have been saying for years: we shouldn’t rush into mining some of the planet’s last intact—and least understood—ecosystems,” says Susanna Fuller, Vice-President of Operations and Projects for Oceans North.
The deep sea is home to an astonishing abundance of marine life and plays an important role in regulating the cycle of nutrients and carbon in the ocean. It’s not fully known what the consequences of deep-sea mining at an industrial scale would be, but many scientists say they would be severe and far-ranging.
In its statement, the government says that Canada does not have legislation governing deep-sea mining and will not permit it to go ahead absent a “rigorous regulatory structure” that does not currently exist. Internationally, it notes that seabed mining should not proceed without similar rules, including “applying precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches, using science-based and transparent management, ensuring effective compliance with a robust inspection mechanism,” and most notably, “do[ing] no harm to the marine environment.”
None of these criteria are being met by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which governs mining in the high seas and is rashly moving ahead to open up areas for exploration. However, Canada is a member of the ISA, and its new position will no doubt direct its work at future meetings, where a vote on whether to allow deep-sea mining will soon be held. Canada could also advance domestic legislation that cements their position against deep-sea mining through a moratorium or ban.
“Conservation is often about reacting to problems,” says Louie Porta, Executive Director of Oceans North. “Here we have a chance to stop one before it starts. We’re grateful for the leadership Canada has shown throughout IMPAC5, and we look forward to ongoing discussions on how to protect our ocean’s future.”
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