Sustainable deep-sea ocean resource exploitation


Sustainable deep-sea ocean resource exploitation

Deep-sea environmental assessment for more sustainable ocean exploitation in the Pacific

Both Kiribati and Tonga have recently passed Seabed Minerals Acts (Kiribati in 2017, and Tonga in 2014) to regulate deep-sea mining activities in their national and international waters. Both states are also in the process of developing Deep-Sea mining policies and national environmental management strategies for mining. However, they lack information on their deep-water environments and capacity for the evaluation of environmental impacts assessments from project proponents and environmental management of deep-sea mining activities, all of which are essential for improving the sustainability of this industry. Sustainable management of mining is vital to minimise impacts of mining on marine resources, including biodiversity, ecosystem functions and valuable ecosystem services, such as fishing and supporting a tourism industry. Sustainable management is also a key part of both countries commitments to international initiatives, such as the UN sustainable development goals.

This project targets two critical gaps for the beneficiary nations: the availability of baseline data, and in-country environmental capacity. Both aspects are important for ensuring sustainability is considered in the developing national deep-sea mining policies, pro-active state-sponsorship of mining in international waters, effective evaluation of planned mining projects and in ensuring environmental issues are included in developing national marine spatial planning initiatives. Specifically, the project will:

  1. Provide the first ecological data for the abyssal seafloor in Kiribati and the first large-scale dataset for the Tongan areas of the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ). This will be done by quantifying biological and environmental variation in deep-water images provided by industrial stakeholders following local engagement and consultation workshops in year 2 of the CME Programme.
  2. Build local capacity in environmental assessment for mining by training stakeholders in deep-water biodiversity and ecological assessment. We will transfer our extensive experience of working in the CCZ (the Line Islands of Kiribati mark the western extent of the CCZ) gained through recent industry, NERC and European funded expeditions to the eastern CCZ. A critical component of this will be in cataloguing the biodiversity of the abyssal area of Kiribati and the Tongan areas of the CCZ, and assessing its regional importance. To do this we will set up robust systems for image collection, annotation and analysis that work in country. To better understand regional biodiversity patterns we will provide our recently-developed expert-curated species catalogue for the megafauna, which documents all known species and aligns identifications from almost all major megafaunal surveys of the area.


Kingdom of Tonga

Republic of Kiribati; Kingdom of Tonga


Daniel Jones
Principal Investigator

Tammy Horton



Latest News

High biodiversity discovered in abyssal areas of Kiribati

Sep 2019
A study led by National Oceanography Centre (NOC) scientists, recently published in Frontiers in Marine Science, presents the first ever images of animals living below 4000 metres within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Kiribati, a remote island group in the Pacific. Industry-collected seabed photos revealed a high diversity, but low abundance, of complex animals. The majority of the observed seabed life was single-celled giant forams. This is comparable to similar...

Capacity building in Kiribati

Jan 2019
Capacity building in Kiribati This week NOC scientists Dr Daniel Jones and Dr Erik Simon-Lledó have been working with the Kiribati government to improve capacity and information in deep-sea assessment. They have just run a week’s workshop and training event in Kiribati for staff of the government ministries charged with managing the marine environment. The event was a great success, introducing the government staff to the wonderful diversity of life in their deep seas and providing detailed training in the tools required...


Environmental resource management in Tonga

Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme (CME) - Kirabati introduction