Fiji is a nation of more than 300 islands whose past, present and future are intrinsically linked to the ocean. The ocean touches every aspect of our lives. The importance of the ocean to our world, to humanity and our survival is undeniable.
The ocean needs our assistance in ensuring its health and we need the ocean for the ecosystem services that it provides which also results in the billions of dollars contributed towards the world economy.
While sea-bed mining has been a focus in several Pacific countries, which could offer short-term economic gain but could result in long-term impacts on ocean systems. Hence, a stronger approach is required to understand such activities and impacts (including residual impacts) in the Pacific.
Commercial deep-sea mining is a new threat that looms for our already imperiled ocean. If allowed to go ahead, mining would irreversibly destroy ancient deep-sea habitats, impact those who derive their livelihoods from the ocean (for example from fisheries), and risk disturbing the planet’s biggest carbon sink. The good news is that this is an industry that we can stop before it starts!
We can demand of our elected leaders and their governments that they put science and precaution first when it comes to deciding whether or not to open the deep sea to an extractive industry that we don’t need and cannot afford.
Science supports our society’s lack of understanding of the deep ocean and makes it impossible to properly assess the potential impacts of mining and to establish adequate safeguards. Mining will disturb and threaten seafloor ecosystems and create plumes of sediment that could obstruct the breathing systems of marine animals, release toxic metals and also cause noise, vibration and light pollution.
A number of States are gathered here today announcing their support for a moratorium on deep-sea mining (DSM) and WE parties will champion this alliance with like-minded States and as such, Fiji is pleased to join and champion this initiative at the United Nations Ocean Conference.
We have already announced a moratorium in 2019 and have been a regional advocate on this issue understanding the several layers of socio-economic and geo-physical impacts these activities would have on our ocean floor. The moratorium is captured in our national ocean policy and subsequent legislations and regulations to translate this into action at the ground level.
Fiji has also called upon fellow Forum Island States to “support a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining from 2020 to 2030, which would allow for a decade of proper scientific research of our economic zones and territorial waters.”
There is a general failure to incorporate sufficient environmental protections, as well as the norm of free, prior, and informed consent for indigenous peoples, who are most likely to be impacted by Deep Sea Mining (DSM).
In the 21st century, and under well-established norms of international law, these omissions represent serious violations of international legal obligations.
This process and the global DSM alliance must support and implement a moratorium on deep seabed mining, issuing of new exploitation and new exploration contracts, and the adoption of seabed mining regulations for exploitation, including ‘exploitation’ regulations by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), unless and until:
Rigorous and transparent impact assessments have been conducted, the environmental, social, cultural and economic risks of deep seabed mining are comprehensively understood, and the effective protection of the marine environment can be ensured;
The precautionary principle, ecosystem approach, and the polluter pays principle have been implemented.
Policies to ensure the responsible production and use of metals, such as the reduction of demand for primary metals, a transformation to a resource-efficient circular economy, and responsible terrestrial mining practices, have been developed and implemented; and
Public consultation mechanisms have been incorporated into all decision-making processes related to deep-sea mining ensuring effective engagement allowing for independent review, and, where relevant, that the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples is respected and consent from potentially affected communities is achieved; and
Promote the reform of the ISA to ensure transparent, accountable, inclusive, effective and environmentally responsible decision making and regulation.
Also, call for partnerships and increased investment in ocean science, particularly in the deep sea and the nexus of the ocean with climate change, including its importance for carbon sequestration and carbon cycling, with an aim of capacity building for marine science and increasing knowledge on deep-sea processes with respect to climate change, fisheries and ocean health.
Make DSM a major point of debate at CBD COP 15 and use the opportunity to potentially convince more countries to join the Alliance (as well as advance a moratorium call) and raise it as appropriate at other regional and global fora.
Finally, we can lead a moratorium initiative in the United Nations General Assembly in 2022 and 2023 to ensure we can gain a truly global resolution to this disastrous activity in this ocean decade.
Vinaka Vakalevu and Thank you very much.