Source: GRID-Arendal
Source: GRID-Arendal

Deep-sea mining

The transition towards renewable energy production creates a huge demand for minerals that are needed to produce batteries, solar cells, and many other products. There are high expectations that these resources can be extracted from the seabed, and deep-sea mining has in recent years been highlighted as an industry with great commercial potential. At the same time, it is an industry that raises environmental concerns, and which now seems to amplify the controversy over what blue growth and sustainable development involves.

In May 2022, Ida Seljevoll Skancke successfully defended her master’s thesis at the University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway as part of the OCEANS PACT project. The title of her thesis is “Seabed minerals in Norway: An analysis of conflicts and sustainability issues”, and it is based on public consultation documents, White Papers, UN reports, peer-reviewed literature, and interviews with key stakeholders.

The thesis analyzes the drivers for deep-sea mining, the international governance regime, developments in Norway toward exploitation of seabed minerals on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, and the controversies associated with this emerging industry. Ida reviewed the various positions and arguments for and against commercial utilization of seabed minerals, and discussed questions of sustainability, the precautionary principle, risk, and decision-making under uncertainty.

The thesis shows that the utilization of seabed minerals entails important dilemmas. On the one hand, minerals are essential for developing renewable technologies and achieving the goal of net zero emissions, and the focus is moving offshore due to mounting challenges in connection with today’s mining on land. On the other hand, there are high risks associated with new industrial activity in remote marine ecosystems and habitats that we still know little about. Ultimately, decisions will be made based on a mix of scientific advice, political and economic interests, social values, and technological opportunities.

Ida presented her thesis during a session on ocean conflicts at the annual Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, which generated a lot of discussion and positive feedback about her work. It illustrates the timeliness of this topic and the need to discuss the different aspects of deep-sea mining. The thesis is available here.

Image source: GRID-Arendal. 

Photo: Private                                                                   


Meeting between Brazilian case studies of OceansPact and NoCrises projects

The Brazilian team of OceansPact was pleased to receive a visit from Lol Dahlet, researcher linked to the NoCrises project, also funded by the Belmont Forum. Lol is a PhD student at University of Bremen (Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research - ZMT), supervised by Dr. Marion Glaser, and her research is being carried out in the northern region of Brazil.

The goal of the meeting was to promote interaction between the two Brazilian case studies that are working with coastal and marine conflicts involving small-scale fishing activities - in the north coast (NoCrises) and in the South coast (OceansPact). The meeting was a great opportunity for interaction among the Brazilian cases and for the discussion of possibilities for cooperation and cross-regional network.

In addition to the meeting, Lol also gave a talk on Coastal-Marine conflicts to the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP/Santos) researchers and students. 

Photo: Audun Rikardsen
Photo: Audun Rikardsen

Meeting in the Barents Sea Forum

The Norwegian team held their second dialogue forum meeting on February 15, 2022. This “Barents Sea Forum” includes representatives from state, market and civil society organizations, with members from the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, Seafood Norway, Petro Arctic, Equinor, the Norwegian Coastal Fishermen’s Association, the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association and Friends of the Earth Norway.

The meeting started with a summary and status of the OCEAN PACT project. After that, we discussed the development of offshore wind power and offshore aquaculture in Norway’s marine and coastal waters and the associated governance frameworks and patterns of conflict. The participants also gave their feedback on the project team's plan for data collection.

Furthermore, we discussed the potential of marine spatial planning to prevent or mitigate conflict. The Norwegian government has recently announced that it wants to extend the well-established system of land-based planning to cover the entire 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone. However, what this will mean in practice remains an open question.

Finally, based on a presentation prepared for the 2022 Ocean Sciences Meeting, there was a discussion about how marine conflicts can play a productive role and contribute to greater sustainability.


Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

Participatory assessment of conflicts in Brazil

The Brazilian case-study has published the report Small-scale fisheries and coastal-marine conflicts in São Paulo, that presents the results of a broad participatory assessment of conflicts involving small-scale fishing communities of the São Paulo coastline, southeastern Brazil. The conflicts were assessed through an online survey and participatory workshops engaging stakeholders.

The online survey had the goal of assessing the cases of conflicts and the workshops aimed to validate and complement the conflicts surveyed, as well as to establish a ranking of the most important conflicts by different stakeholders. A total of 132 conflicts were systematized into 12 categories and the most relevant were: legislation and surveillance; large-scale enterprises in coastal areas, pollution, fishing regulation and fisheries management and planning. The prioritization of conflicts was important to guide the definition of the Brazilian case study based on local demands, but also to highlight the main conflicts faced by the small-scale fishing sector and to provide information to subsidize the discussions and actions around these conflicts. More than one hundred people were involved in the process, including fishers, community leaders, government representatives, researchers and other civil society organizations.

The report was published in Portuguese, as it aims to engage and disseminate the results of the assessment to the stakeholders. The Brazilian team will also communicate the results in different spaces and formats, presenting this report in marine protected areas councils, in local media, community-based organizations and building policy briefs for decision-makers.

Knowledge products

Online meeting. Photo: Sigmund/Unsplash
Photo: Sigmund/Unsplash

Overarching Dialogue Forum

On September 29, the OCEANS PACT team organised the first overarching dialogue forum. The main focus of the meeting was to connect forum members and the research teams. Another purpose of the dialogue forum was to provide advice on the framing, implementation and institutionalisation of the OCEANS PACT research. 

Dialogue Forum members are drawn from a number of international bodies and organisations that are influential in efforts to better understand and enable ocean sustainability, including

  • Future Earth’s applied research networks IMBER and Future Earth Coasts, and Ocean Knowledge Action Network
  • IUCN
  • Ocean Conservancy
  • The Ocean Foundation
  • Wildlife Conservation Society
  • World Ocean Council

Also included are internationally recognised scholars who specialise in various aspects of ocean law and governance, environmental dispute resolution, and global ocean sustainability and conflict transformation.

During the meeting, the six cases studies were presented, as well as an overview of the project conceptualisation and milestones and a comparative analysis.  

Each presentation summarised the case study context, key issues in contention, the stakeholders involved, and research findings to date.

Next steps will include exploring ways to involve Dialogue Forum members in shaping the direction of the overall research project, involvement in relevant case studies, and to identifying practical ways to share learning from the research, and where possible institutionalise this learning in organisations involved in efforts to transform ocean conflict.

The presentations can be found under each case study on the page Marine conflict cases.