The subject was not on the menu of the official discussions of the United Nations conference on the ocean, which is being held in Lisbon until 1is July. However, the question of the exploration and exploitation of the deep seabed largely occupied the news of these international meetings until the declaration, short but resounding, of Emmanuel Macron, Thursday, June 30: “I think we need to develop a legal framework to put a stop to deep sea mining and not allow new activities that would endanger ecosystems [océaniques]. » The President of the Republic caused the pleasant surprise of environmental NGOs, so much he seemed tempted until now by the quest for cobalt-rich crusts, sulphides and polymetallic nodules in the abyss.
The interview he had with the highly respected oceanographer Sylvia Earle was able to play in this position taken not in plenary assembly, but at the Lisbon Oceanarium, in front of a basin where sharks passed and facing an audience of about forty players from the maritime world. At the opening of the UN meetings, this pioneer, former scientific director at the American Agency for Oceanic and Atmospheric Observation (NOAA), stressed that the mining industry is accompanied by environmental impacts everywhere. And wondered: “On dry land, we can at least monitor, see and fix the problems, and minimize the damage. Six thousand meters below the surface, who’s watching? »
As France has the second largest maritime domain in the world and its president presents himself as a champion of the defense of the marine world – he has moreover proposed to host the next UN conference on the ocean in 2025, organized together with Costa Rica – Paris was expected at the turn. The pressure there has risen a notch again in recent days to obtain a moratorium protecting the ocean depths from industrial greed. Environmental NGOs – very mobilized – as well as many scientists – more than 600 of them have launched an appeal against this potential additional stress for the seabed – are determined to defend deep ecosystems, which remain poorly understood. They also argue that it is precisely in its floor that the ocean performs an essential function: storing CO₂. Is it therefore appropriate to send collector robots there to raise plumes of sediment?
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