Man's impact on the oceans
Deep-sea exploration over the last two decades has shown that the deep-sea environment has already been impacted by man. Resources from the deep are increasingly exploited and clear signs of direct and indirect anthropogenic impacts are now visible in many deep-sea ecosystems. Direct impacts of human activities relate to existing or future exploitation of deep-sea resources (e.g. fisheries, hydrocarbon extraction, mining, bioprospecting), to seabed uses (e.g., pipelines, cable laying, carbon sequestration) and to pollution (e.g. contamination from land-based sources/activities, waste disposal, dumping, noise, impacts of shipping and maritime accidents). Indirect impacts relate to climate change, ocean acidification and atmospheric ozone depletion. This raises a series of concerns because deep-sea processes and ecosystems are not only important for the marine web of life but they also fundamentally contribute to global biogeochemical patterns that support all life on Earth. Moreover they provide direct goods and services that are of growing economic significance.
Above right: Fishing for Orange Roughy - a species under threat from over-fishing in the world's oceans. Image copyright Greenpeace.
Most of today’s understanding of the deep oceans comes from the natural sciences, supplemented by data from industry. But socio-economic research in support of the sustainable use and conservation of deep-sea resources is lagging behind. There is a clear need to identify the societal and economic implications of human activities and impacts, and to investigate the key socioeconomic and governance issues related to the conservation, management and sustainable use of the deep-seas.
Left: Litter in the Lisbon Canyon. Image courtesy NOCS/JC10.