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The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) calls on G7 countries to up their ambition and take critical action to defend the deep ocean following the release of the G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers’ Communique released on 16 April 2023.

G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers met in Sapporo, Japan on April 15-16. They agreed to move toward a quicker phase-out of fossil fuels and plastics but failed to commit to safeguarding the deep ocean, despite its critical importance to planetary health.

The 35-page Communiqué outlines key actions and commitments to several global ocean conservation issues, but the Ministers failed to collectively support a moratorium on the emerging industry of deep-sea mining or a prohibition on deep-sea trawling on vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs), nor did they urge a precautionary approach to deep-sea carbon capture and storage technologies. On the 12th April, 47 global civil society organizations called on the Ministers to “look to the future and take decisive action to protect the deep ocean and the vital ecosystem services it provides.”

Ministers stressed the “importance of the best available science and evidence in policy-making in the Communiqué. The DSCC call on G7 countries protect the deep ocean in the face of what science is telling us about the impact of deep-sea mining and bottom trawling on VMEs and benthic environments.

Saving seamounts – biodiversity hotspots

In the Communiqué, Ministers committed to “sustainably manage fisheries and ensure that fishing is compatible with the conservation targets of marine biodiversity (including both habitats and species)”. Ministers also emphasized the need to end Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. They failed however to commit to a prohibition on deep-sea bottom trawl fishing on seamounts and other VMEs, hotspots for life in the deep. In line with almost 20 years of commitments by the G7 countries and others through United Nations General Assembly resolutions, including the most recent – resolution 71/118 adopted in 2022, all States have agreed to protect seamounts, deep-sea coral ecosystems and other vulnerable marine ecosystems  on the high seas from destructive fishing practices, in particular bottom trawling, “recognizing the immense importance and value of deep-sea ecosystems and the biodiversity they contain.”

Deep-sea mining – industrial scale destruction

As global opposition to deep-sea mining grows from a broad spectrum of society, the Ministers committed to “…actively engage in the development of a regulatory framework on deep seabed mineral exploitation under International Seabed Authority (ISA).” This is contradictory to calls for a ban by France, a precautionary pause by Germany, and an effective moratorium by Canada. The Communiqué also stated: “A robust knowledge basis on the deep sea marine environment and on the risks and potential impacts of deep sea mining operations, that is able to demonstrate the environment is not seriously harmed, is critical for considering our consent in the ISA council, and is a precondition for any future mining permits.” The DSCC join the One Ocean Flotilla in warning that line with international commitments to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ‘serious harm’ is too high a threshold and that deep-sea mining should not go ahead if the protection of marine life cannot be guaranteed.

Deep-sea carbon capture and storage

The Communiqué further called for the “deployment of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) processes with robust social and environmental safeguards”. The DSCC together with the One Ocean Flotilla, call for a precautionary approach to deep-sea carbon capture and storage technologies until the environmental, social and economic risks are comprehensively understood.

With the adoption last month of the High Seas Treaty, which commits all countries to protecting ocean biodiversity, activities demonstrated to cause irreversible damage, such as bottom trawling and mining in the deep sea, should no longer be considered at all. A healthy ocean is one of our greatest allies in battling the impacts of climate change. We need leaders to take a transformative path to development. The Heads of State must demonstrate this courage and vision when they meet in May.”

Sian Owen, Director of the DSCC

“The DSCC concurs with the G7 Climate, Energy and Environment ministers that we are facing “the unprecedented triple global crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.” While we welcome the commitments in the statement to “halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030” and improving resource efficiency and circularity to achieve sustainable consumption and production, we call on Canada, the US, Italy, the UK and Japan to follow the lead of France and Germany and put words into action to establish a moratorium on deep-sea mining in international waters. for All G7 countries, in particular Japan, must also ensure effective implementation of UN General Assembly commitments to sustainable fisheries and protecting biodiversity by ending deep-sea bottom trawling on seamounts and other vulnerable ecosystems on the high seas.”

Matthew Gianni, Co-Founder of the DSCC