“Descending to the depths of the ocean is part of my job as a deep-sea biologist. Traveling three miles below the sea surface never ceases to uplift me. I’ve seen strange and wonderful creatures, from anemones with seven-foot tentacles that billow across the seafloor, to sharks that glow in the dark, 1,000-year-old corals and blind white crabs sustained by bacteria they cultivate on their claws.
The deep sea is a trove of biodiversity, rich in living resources used in medicines and critical in regulating the climate and providing spawning and feeding grounds for fish. The planet would not be the same without it.
But the ocean is facing plenty of problems. Pollution can be found in every marine ecosystem, from the estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year to toxic chemicals accumulating in animals living in the deepest deep-sea trenches. The waters are becoming warmer, more acidic and less rich in oxygen. Twenty percent to 25 percent of marine species are already at considerable risk of extinction.
Now a new threat looms.
The ocean could be the next frontier for mining. An obscure but consequential organization formed under the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty is finalizing regulations for mining activities in over 40 percent of the planet’s surface. Approval of these rules, in the works since 2014, could come possibly as soon as July. After that, a scramble to mine the deep sea could commence. And once it begins, there will be little hope of reining it in.”