Canada Calls for Moratorium on Deep Seabed Mining to Protect Global Ocean

Canada has called for a moratorium on commercial seabed mining, saying that it’s critical that the international community recognize its collective responsibility to safeguard the shared global ocean for future generations.

The statement was issued by Canadian Ministers Melanie Joly, Foreign Affairs; Jonathan Wilkinson, Natural Resources; and Joyce Murray, Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. It came in early July as meetings were beginning in Jamaica for Part II of the 28th International Seabed Authority (ISA) session.

“Canada will continue to uphold the principles, rights, duties and obligations in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and negotiate in good faith rules, regulations and procedures, which ensure the prevention of damage from seabed mining activities to the marine environment,” they said.

The ministers said that the Canadian government was clear that “seabed mining should take place only if effective protection of the marine environment is provided through a rigorous regulatory structure, applying precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches, using science-based and transparent management, and ensuring effective compliance with a robust inspection mechanism.”

The ministers said that Canada was committed to responsible and sustainable management and use of ocean resources.  That, they said, requires strong environmental, social and governance principles and an adherence to science-based policy and decision making.  The ministers said they recognized the importance of marine ecosystems as a climate regulator and would continue to advocate for a precautionary approach to development, one that aligns with efforts to combat climate change and pollution, and to protect biodiversity and habits.

The nation’s position is consistent with its approach to commercial seabed mining in areas under Canada’s jurisdiction which was announced on Feb. 9, they said.
The ministers also pledged to continue to engage with partners at the ISA to ensure protection, conservation and restoration of the global ocean and to ensure that the sustainable and equitable use of ocean resources are at the forefront of decision making.

Catherine Coumans, Asia-Pacific Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, said the science is clear that destroying the very habitat for most marine life on the seabed will never be sustainable. She urged the Canadian government to follow Switzerland’s lead in ensuring its moratorium position is not contingent upon the adoption of regulations.

Coumans noted that Canada’s The Metals Company and its partner country Nauru had already announced plans to apply for a mining permit this year. Canada will need at least two-thirds of the other countries of the ISA’s 36-member council vote against granting that permit, she said.