Even the strange and bizarre animals that inhabit the deep-ocean aren’t safe from human activity — with many of the more vulnerable of them possibly facing extinction in the near-term via said activity, researchers are warning.
In addition to the highly destructive effects of deep-sea trawling, the environment of the deep ocean has also regularly served as a an international dumping ground for radioactive waste, sewage and toxic chemicals.
On the subject of deep-sea trawling it’s worth noting that “one-fifth of the continental slope (an area of 4.4 million km2) has been trawled at least once and often multiple times by the fishing industry, leading to habitat loss and removal of slow to reproduce species.” That is destruction on an absolutely enormous scale — contradicting the image that many have of the deep-sea as being largely untouched by humans.
While it may indeed be true (as is commonly stated) that we know less about the deep ocean than we do the surface of the Moon, that isn’t to say that our actions haven’t already had an enormous impact on the environment. When we finally do get around to exploring it, what will we find? Plastic bags?
Personally, rather than finding plastic trash or radioactive waste, I’d like to take a look at some of the rather strange and beautiful deep sea fish that can be found in those depths, black dragonfish, frilled sharks, blobfish, giant oarfish, etc.
The press release provides more:
University of Southampton oceanographer is working with experts from around the globe to warn against lasting damage to the deep-ocean, caused by fishing, oil and gas development, industrial-scale mining, waste disposal and land-based pollution.
The world’s deep-ocean spans more than half the planet and holds vast quantities of untapped energy resources, precious metals and minerals. But as advancements in technology enable greater access to these treasures of the deep, experts are urging caution, highlighting the potentially irreversible damage that extracting such materials can cause.
“Currently, governance of our deep-ocean is fragmented,” stated Dr Maria Baker, of the University of Southampton. “We need to achieve integrated thinking and communication across all deep-sea stakeholders and across all jurisdictions — this is key to delivering the best possible solutions for future deep-ocean resource use and long-term environmental protection.”
The recommendations of the new research paper came together during the (relatively recent) inaugural meeting of the Deep-ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI).
According to Dr Lisa Levin, one of DOSI’s founders: “The Initiative is designed to bring natural and social scientists, regulators, the private sector and civil society together to provide guidance on environmental management of the deep-ocean. We humans don’t have a great track record with stewardship of land and our coastal ocean. Hopefully, we can do a better job with the deep half of the planet.”
An article on the subject was just published in the journal Science.
Image Credit: Danté Fenolio, PhD Manager of Conservation and Research San Antonio Zoo