Dublin, 4 July 2023 (TDI): The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, along with Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan, has made an important decision to advocate for a “precautionary pause” on deep-sea mining activities in the international seabed.

This call emphasizes the need for a robust regulatory framework to protect the marine environment and the requirement for sufficient scientific knowledge to inform decision-making processes.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA), established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is responsible for regulating the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources in the international seabed beyond any national jurisdiction.

Currently, the ISA has authorized only exploration activities, but there have been recent efforts by certain states and mining companies to expedite the move towards exploitation, despite ongoing negotiations on a mining code and environmental regulations, as well as significant scientific knowledge gaps.

Expressing their support for this decision, Tánaiste Micheál Martin stated, “Ireland today joins a growing chorus of countries, scientists, civil society organizations, and private companies calling for a precautionary pause on deep-sea mining.

The international community has a responsibility to protect the marine environment, which is under greater pressure than ever.”

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Minister O’Brien added, “The recently agreed Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and the UN Agreement on Marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) marked significant progress in international ocean governance. It is important that we focus on achieving the ambitious objectives of these frameworks and build upon the strides already taken to safeguard our marine environment.”

Minister of State Noonan emphasized, “There are still significant scientific knowledge gaps regarding deep-sea ecosystems and the potential impacts of deep-sea mining. The precautionary principle and the utilization of the best available science must be central to the governance of the international seabed.”

This call by the Irish government highlights the growing recognition among nations, scientific communities, civil society, and businesses that a cautious and informed approach is necessary to protect delicate marine ecosystems and ensure sustainable use of ocean resources.