An exhibition of art with ocean themes was mounted at the Trinidad Art Society on January 14, by the Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) to encourage its audience to restore the ocean and defend the deep. It was a significant event in the on-going project to raise awareness about the threats posed by Deep Seabed Mining.
The SOA is working in support of a moratorium on deep seabed mining sanctioned by the International Seabed Authority and likely to start as early as July, said Khadija Stewart, co-ordinator of SOA Caribbean for Trinidad and Tobago.
The SOA is a global non-governmental organisation started in 2014 to mobilise a network of young people in support of the world’s oceans. SOA “has cultivated the world's largest network of next-gen leaders, entrepreneurs, advocates, mentors, and partners, working to create solutions for the largest challenges facing our ocean.”
The alliance has a footprint on all continents, Europe, Latin America, Asia, Pacific Islands and Australia, Africa, the US and the Caribbean. SOA has supported 222 start-ups, non-profits, and grassroots initiatives all over the world, each dedicated to restoring and sustaining the health of our ocean. SOA is also allied with and in support of the work of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC).
The DSCC is made up of over 100 non-government organisations, fishers organisations and law and policy institutes working together to protect vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems. Its aims include reducing the greatest threats to life in the deep sea and safeguarding the long-term health, integrity and resilience of deep-sea ecosystems. DSCC also supports the moratorium on deep seabed mining.
The SOA Caribbean region has close ties with SOA Latin America. SOA has representation in TT and Jamaica, headquarters of the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
International Seabed Authority
With headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica, the ISA came into existence on November 16, 1994, upon the entry into force of UN Convention on the Law of the Sea UNCLOS). ISA became fully operational as an autonomous international organisation in June 1996, when it took over the premises and facilities in Kingston previously used by the UN Kingston Office for the Law of the Sea.
All states that are parties to UNCLOS are members of ISA. As of May 1, 2020, ISA has 168 members including 167 states and the EU.
The ISA is mandated under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to organise, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area for the benefit of mankind as a whole.
In so doing, ISA has the duty to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment from harmful effects that may arise from deep-seabed related activities.
The ocean occupies over 70 per cent of earth’s surface; of which about 54 per cent is open sea outside any national jurisdiction; this is known as The Area that is under the purview of ISA. The Area and its resources are the common heritage of mankind. The Area covers around 54 per cent of the total area of the world’s oceans.
Moratorium on seabed mining
SOA has articulated its position as follows. It is supported by independent scientists who make the connection between the health of the ocean, biodiversity and climate change.
“We believe a moratorium is necessary to:
1. Undertake comprehensive and independent scientific research to better understand the deep-sea’s unique biodiversity, the seabed’s larger role in our ocean and climate systems, and the risks deep-seabed mining poses to the protection and prosperity of our ocean;
2. Allow appropriate time for governments and private sector to invest in and expand the circular economy and additional innovative technologies that will reduce our future reliance on extractive industries and the unsustainable linear economy;
3. Review the ISA's dual mandate as both the profiteer and steward of the international seabed and assess if the ISA is fit-for-purpose to ensure the protection of the “common heritage of mankind”; and
4. Ensure the ISA’s decision-making processes are inclusive, transparent, accountable, and adequately account for intergenerational equity.”
They assert, “As the generation inheriting this planet, along with those who have watched its decline over the last century, we adamantly oppose the unjustified risk of deep-seabed mining and call on you to stand with us in support of a moratorium on deep-seabed mining…We ask you to stand for science, stand for the ocean, and stand for the rights of current and future generations.
“The decisions on whether or not to mine the seabed are being made right here in our backyards in the Caribbean, in Jamaica, at the International Seabed Authority. Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are both important voices at the ISA, because they sit on the council. As island nations whose destinies are inherently entwined with the ocean, we urgently need to see Caribbean nations taking a stand against deep sea mining.”