August 14, 2020

Marine biologists publish editorial in New York Times about risks of deep-sea mining

This illustration (not to scale) shows some of the potential effects of deep-sea mining on midwater animals. Image courtesy of the University of Hawaii.

On August 14, the New York Times ran an editorial by MBARI Senior Scientist Steve Haddock and former MBARI Postdoctoral Fellow Anela Choy (now on the faculty at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography). This article points out the potential effects of deep-sea mining on midwater animals living in the deep water column, which extends from roughly 180 meters (600 feet) below the surface to the seafloor. The article follows up on a paper covering the same topic that was published earlier this summer by a large group of researchers

As Haddock explained, “The issue [for midwater animals] is the discharge plume—silty, toxin-laden water that is pumped back into the sea when the minerals have been extracted. The fine portions of this sediment will not settle straight to the seafloor, but be carried along by ocean currents over great distances.”

Haddock and Choy conclude their piece in the New York Times as follows, “Historically the deep sea has been considered remote and largely devoid of life, and to have an inexhaustible capacity to absorb our pollution. In reality, these deep water ecosystems are fragile, diverse and connected to us. Mining operations must reduce their impact on the whole of the ocean and not just the seafloor. The dazzling treasure of oceanic biodiversity has unfathomable value as well.”

Read the New York Times article here.

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