Issue 05 2018-2019

The Common Heritage applied to the resources of the seabed – Lessons learnt from the exploration of deep sea minerals and comparison to marine genetic resources

by Marzia ROVERE

This paper draws a parallel between mineral resources of the deep sea and marine genetic resources. The paper first discusses the discovery and first deep sea exploration of minerals bearing metals of economic interest. Secondly, the paper gives a brief historical overview of metal prices, and other external factors, such as the technological challenge and the global economic conditions, that have so far prevented from entering into an exploitation phase of deep seabed mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Subsequently, the paper provides an outline of the state of the art in the scientific investigation of marine genetic resources, and gives an overview of possible harmful consequences of exploiting hotspots of marine life through bioprospecting in the deep sea. The two examples analysed serve to substantiate the idea that international authorities tend to be established at a too early stage of scientific knowledge, pressured by misleading preconceptions, which are not based on sound and free marine scientific research.

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