Spatial management in the deep sea

145rtlrThe growing number of resource issues in the deep ocean is leading to the gradual development of multi-sectoral approaches to management issues, involving the International Seabed Authority (ISA), regional sea management organisations (e.g. the Oslo Paris Convention, OSPAR), regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). While the governance of biodiversity resources and ecosystem services in the Area and on the High Seas is rather complex, there is growing evidence of different regulatory bodies working together to develop environmental management plans at the regional scale. These plans include the creation of spatial management options, such as Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) and Areas of Particular Environmental Interest (APEIs).

DSES staff have played a key role in designating both EBSAs and APEIs, as well as advising on approaches that should be used in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) for Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). These approaches have allowed for the conservation of biological diversity and ecosystem services as well as for multi-sectoral development of resources.

Colossendeis proboscea 928m Norwegian Sea

Solutions within EBSAs have included freezing the footprint of deep-water bottom trawling, pending further management decisions, and the designation of wide area EBSAs covering a wide variety of depths.

In the case of deep-sea mining it is evident that there will be substantial impacts on ecosystems. They may be 1) highly localised areas, for instance in the mining of polymetallic sulphides at active vents sites, 2) of moderate size at the scale of individual seamounts or groups of seamounts for cobalt-rich crusts, or 3) at very large scales, as for the harvesting of polymetallic nodules over vast areas of seabed. The introduction of spatial management plans, including the creation of preservation reference areas (PRAs) and APEIs for the natural recolonisation and remediation, are necessary prior to the exploitation of minerals. It is evident that planning for natural recolonisation, or the active restoration of ecosystems by direct interventions to speed up natural processes, are useful elements to include in EIAs and SEAs.