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Case Introduces Measures To Halt Deep-Seabed Mining Until Full Consequences Understood And Protective Regulatory Regimes Established

His bills would impose a moratorium on mining of the seabed under American jurisdiction and call for one in international waters

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) today introduced two measures calling for moratoria on the mining of our world’s deep seabed unless and until its consequences are fully understood and an appropriate protective regulatory regime is established.

“Our deep oceans and seabed are the last unexplored regions of our world, yet what we do know of them is that they are among our most intricate and fragile,” said Case.

“Over half of all known coral species are found in the deep sea, and as many as 10 million marine species may inhabit the deep sea, a massive and interrelated biodiversity seen nearly nowhere else on the planet.

“Some of these species have had surprising benefits to humanity, including enzymes from one microbe found in deep-sea hydrothermal vents being used to develop COVID-19 tests. In addition, the deep ocean is one of our planet’s largest and most important stores of carbon and could play a critical role in the fight against climate change.

“Yet all of these species and natural processes, and in fact our entire marine ecosystem, are now imperiled by the imminent commencement of large-scale commercial seabed mining operations. Seabed mining could take a number of destructive forms, including methods which would shear off seamounts on the ocean floor, the functional equivalent of strip mining.”

Case said the American Seabed Protection Act will place a moratorium on deep-sea mining activities in American waters or by American companies on the high seas. It also tasks the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Academies of Science with conducting a comprehensive assessment of how mining activities could affect ocean species, carbon sequestration processes and communities that rely on the ocean.

The International Seabed Protection Act will require the United States to oppose international and other national seabed mining efforts until the President certifies that the International Seabed Authority has adopted a suitable regulatory framework which will guarantee protection for these unique ecosystems and the communities that rely on them.

The introduction of the measures comes as the International Seabed Authority prepares to consider regulations that could open the international seabed for mining.  While both companies and countries are lining up to secure mining permits, many are concerned about the impact on marine ecosystems, habitats and communities.

 “While deep sea mining holds potential to provide minerals for batteries and other renewable energy technology, we cannot blindly exploit the ocean floor,” said Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member. “Our transition to renewable energy must be just and safe.

“The studies outlined in Representative Case’s bill are an important first step in understanding the environmental and social impacts of mining the deep ocean seabed. This research will give us the information we need to make appropriate decisions about deep sea mining in U.S. waters and will be invaluable in combating the climate crisis and preserving the biodiversity and health of our oceans for future generations.“

“Mining in pristine, fragile ecosystems like the seabed could open a pandoras box of unintended consequences reaching far beyond the excavation sites,” said Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA). “This kind of activity could decimate fish and marine mammal populations, destroy ecosystems, and inhibit carbon sequestration. Extracting industries should not have carte blanche access to what are some of the last untouched places on our planet. I’m glad to be joining Rep. Case on these bills to prevent the exploitation of seabeds before the proper research and regulations can be established.”

“Seabed mining poses a risk to the health of the ocean and the life it sustains,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR). “We must not disrupt the fragile marine environment and its aquatic inhabitants when there is still much more to learn about seabed mining and its effects.

“Let’s promote proven ocean-climate solutions that enhance natural processes and avoid any action that may permanently damage precious ecosystems. I’m grateful to work with Congressman Case on these bills to place a moratorium on seabed mining, promote research, and sustain ocean health.”

“There is a lot of misleading information and unsubstantiated hype about deep-sea mining being peddled by the proponents of this industry both in the United States and at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) which meets this week and may well begin authorizing deep-sea mining in the Pacific Ocean within the next year,” said Matthew Gianni, Co-founder, Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.  “Congressman Case’s bills are timely and critically important in calling on the National Academy of Science and others to conduct an independent study to assess the environmental and social risks of this industry and for the US to promote a moratorium on any deep-sea mining to prevent the ISA from causing large-scale irreversible damage to the environment, including the ocean’s role as a carbon sink, and disruptions to fisheries and coastal communities in Hawaii and elsewhere in the Pacific.”

“The deep seabed of our ocean is teeming with diverse ecosystems and species that scientists are still discovering and that are interconnected with shallow ocean waters and the climate,” said Addie Haughey, Earthjustice Legislative Director for Lands, Wildlife and Oceans “

“As multinational mining companies rush to utilize untested technologies to exploit the deep seabed for its mineral resources, we need strong protections to prevent permanent damage to ocean ecosystems and the communities in the Pacific and elsewhere that rely upon them. We thank Rep. Case for recognizing the importance of ocean ecosystems and introducing these bills to protect the ocean from reckless exploitation.”

Case summarized: “Paired together, these bills will establish the United States as an international leader in protecting our precious oceans through a responsible process to address the potentially devastating effects of widespread, unregulated deep seabed mining.

This legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME).

This legislation is endorsed by the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Ocean Protection Coalition, Sustainable Ocean Alliance, Greenpeace USA, Earthworks, Benioff Ocean Science Lab, Blue Climate Initiative, the Ocean Foundation, Marine Conservation Institute, Parley for the Oceans, Oceanic Preservation Society, Inland Ocean Coalition, FutureSwell, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, Keiko Conservation, 350Hawai‘i, Zero Waste Hawai‘i Island and Greenpeace Hawai‘i.

Text for the American Seabed Protection Act is available here. Text for the International Seabed Protection Act is available here.