Scientists call for moratorium on ocean mining, fearing impact on Pacific tuna fishery

By Brian Hagenbuch

Contributing Editor reporting from Seattle, USA

September 9, 2021

A deep sea mining rig

Around 500 scientists from 44 countries have signed a letter urging a moratorium on ocean mining, an activity that researchers say could be adversely affect fisheries, in particular deep-sea catches like tuna.

Scientists made the plea recently after an ocean-mining company and its host country, the Pacific island nation of Nauru, touched off a two-year rule with the International Seabed Authority (ISA), headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica. The two-year rule – triggered by Nauru on behalf of Vancouver, Canada-based Nauru Natural Ocean Resources Inc. – means that time is short for the ISA to set a code on the specifics of seafloor mining.

But researchers like Douglas McCauley, a professor of ocean science at the University of California Santa Barbara, told SeafoodSource that not enough is known about the impacts of seafloor mining on marine life.

“There has just been a lot of concern about this. We have 500 scientists saying we simply cannot activate this ocean mining, that we need to put a pause to it until we understand it’s impacts on the ocean and on fisheries, and we simply don’t have that science in hand,” McCauley told SeafoodSource. “Scientists never agree on anything, so it’s especially interesting to see 500 scientists signing on to the statement.”

If the process is not stalled, McCauley said that the policy developed in the next few months will shape the next century of ocean mining. Fisheries, he said, could be drastically altered. In seafloor mining, heavy equipment chews up the floor of the ocean. After the minerals are extracted, sediment-heavy wastewater is pumped back into the ocean via large tubes. Sediment from these plumes, researchers say, could end up in seafood and could smother the fragile forage base for fisheries.

Jesse van der Grient, a researcher from the University of Hawaii who is studying the potential effects of wastewater plumes on the fisheries, told SeafoodSource the effects of the plumes are still not well-understood by the scientific community.

“One of the problems that we have is that we need to know how far these sediment plumes will spread out from the ships they are discharged from. Right now, we don’t actually have good numerical models about how these sediment plumes are going to spread across the ocean,” van der Grient told SeafoodSource.

Van der Grient and her colleagues have assessed different plume sizes, and concluded that U.S. commercial fleets stand to have the most overlap with seafloor mining, in particular in the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone in the central Pacific. There, miners hope to dig up rich stores of nickel and cobalt – minerals used in the construction of lithium-ion batteries – but the area is also home to valuable tuna fisheries. A recent University of Hawaii paper concluded that mining plumes could overlap into 8 to 16 percent of current fishing grounds.

“I suppose on one hand, 16 percent of catch overlap doesn’t sound like much. However, I would just say that if folks had been given permission to mine on 16 percent of my land, I would care,” McCauley said.

It is not just the U.S. that could see adverse impacts. Studies have shown that fisheries in China, Mexico, Venezuela, Spain, the Philippines, as well as small island-nations could suffer from seafloor mining. Despite this, McCauley said there has been a notable absence of fisheries representatives in the discussions on ocean mining.

“There are representatives from a diversity of different ocean industries that could be affected by ocean mining present already in the negotiations on if and how to start commercial ocean mining at the International Seabed Authority meeting – ranging from the subsea cable industry to underwater munitions industry,” McCauley said. “But I have never met a fisheries representative sharing perspectives on what ocean mining would mean to the seafood industry at the ISA.”

McCauley said he does not know if regional fisheries management organizations are planning to weigh in on the seafloor mining debate.

“The only fisheries industry group that I am aware of engaging on the subject is the E.U.’s Long-Distance Advisory Council, which called for a moratorium on commercial seabed mining,” McCauley said.

Earlier this summer, the U.S. state of Washington banned offshore mining, and Pacific island nations Fiji and Papua New Guinea have shown an interest in an ocean-mining moratorium. Several major companies, including Samsung, BMW, and Google, have pledged not to use minerals from deep-sea mining in their supply chains.  

Photo courtesy of Yana Mavlyutova/Shutterstock

What if seabed mining goes wrong?

What if seabed mining goes wrong?

Citizens of Tonga are demanding answers about liability

“The Pacific is currently the world’s laboratory for the experiment of Deep Seabed Mining,” Kara and the other groups wrote to the ISA. And if anything goes wrong in the lab, Kara is worried that her country wouldn’t be able to foot the bill. And if no one can pay for remediation, Greenpeace notes, that may be even worse.

Read More….

Save our Ocean, cries the people of Tonga

Save our Ocean, cries the people of Tonga

Press Realease:

The people of Tonga is echoing a strong stance of saying no to deep sea mining and asking government to save the ocean, their people and their children.

Using the Civil Society Forum of Tonga (CSFT) network, the people are raising concerns on government’s decision to issue the exploration license to Tonga Offshore Minerals Limited (TMOL) without any proper consultations with the people whose livelihood will be affected.

The island wide zoom consultation, orchestrate with the theme “Fofola e Fala- Roll out the mat let’s sit down and Talanoa- Save our Ocean” held on the eve of our National Day, was significant in commemorating the country’s 145 years old Constitution.

While there’s no clarity whether the government has yet or have signed the Contract with TMOL, this negotiating business have a disadvantage on the people.

The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Tonga Council of Churches, Pacific Council of Churches, Pacific Island Association of Non-Government Organizations and CSFT jointly creating awareness, highlighting the concerns of the people on seabed mining and amplifying their voices to the national level.

The Honorable Prime Minister of Tonga, Rev. Dr. Pohiva Tui’onetoa has confirmed government’s commitment to conserve the ocean as source of livelihood to the people of Tonga at the same time, welcome the UN calls for the Decade of Science and the moratorium on Sea bed mining.

Rev Dr. Tevita Koloa’ia Havea, Secretary General of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga reminded the Government of our custodian responsibility as steward of the Land and our Ocean wealth.
“The Ocean was created for you and me,” Rev Dr Havea said.
Rev. Dr. Sela Manu Director of the Women’s Department of the Free Wesleyan of Tonga, cautioned the government that ‘not all things that glitters are gold’ and to be mindful that foreign companies are not forcing us into a situation that will hurt us in the future.
Message, from the consultations was loud and clear that Deep Sea Mining should not be considered as an economic investment.

The people says “It is not made for opportunist politician or profiteering investors who will become richer at the suffering of the people of Tonga now and the future.”
The island wide zoom resulted in all the islands saying NO to Deep Sea Mining both in Tonga’s EEZ and the AREA (International waters).

The Islands, according to Mr. Drew Havea have drawn the red line No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! in line of respect for their people, their lives and their sovereignty.
There’s also a unanimous call from the people of ‘Eua Islands to the Government of Tonga that summed up the emotions of the people saying to Deep Sea Mining “NOT on my island, NOT on my region and NOT on my world”.
Young participants also questioned government whether their lives and the lives of their children matter, adding they are the generations that will suffer and be affected by Deep Sea Mining.

TOML is a subsidiary of DEEP GREEN, a company sponsored by the Government of Tonga to explore and eventually, when International Seabed Authority (ISA) regulation passed, extract an annual 3 million tons of mineral ore from the bottom of the ocean. Representative of Deep Green and Ministry of Lands & Natural Resources also claim their proposed actions would merely to pick nodules off the ocean floor without disturbing the environment.
However, The CEO for Environment and Climate Change warns of the irreversible nature of Deep Sea Mining, saying “the ocean makes us one.”

According to the Deputy Chief Executive Officer and heads of Geology Division the contract with TOML will pay Tonga USD$2 per ton of mineral ore, an income of USD$6 million annually.
But the Vava’u outer Island women are shocked, that the government is selling one ton of their wealth for the price of a green coconut.

“The Government is gambling with the riskiest business in our ocean, the very source of our people’s livelihood and gambling with our life,” CSFT Board Chairman Drew Havea said.
They said decisions to explore and the potential of mining does not add up. The Ministry of Fisheries data shows Snappers brings and annual revenue of USD$1 million and Tuna USD$7.5 million, and that’s with a small fleet of fishing boats. Beche-de-mer is a multi-million-dollar export with potential to be more.






Local civil society groups sign MoU affirming solidarity in supporting government commitments to gender equality and participation and empowerment of women and girls in Tonga
Nuku’alofa, Tonga.

The Prime Minister, Honourable Dr. Pohiva Tui’onetoa officiated at the launch and signing of the Memorandum of Understanding of FI-E-FI-A ’a Fafine Tonga (FFFT) at the Epworth Hall, Friday 16th October 2020.
FI-E-FI-A ’a Fafine Tonga, formerly known as the Women in Leadership Coalition was renamed to reflect their solidarity in promoting the active participation of women and girls in all levels and areas of political, economic, cultural, private and public life. The signing of the MoU by the members endorses their unity on common principles, goals and values which will help manage competing priorities and ensure that they work collaboratively to progress and achieve the purpose of FFFT.

When officially launching the FFFT, Honourable Tui’onetoa said, “ I acknowledge the work the Chair and the women coalition have been doing to promote the rights of women and girls and I am embarrassed to hear that the number of domestic violence has increased during the lockdown period and we must do something to address this…”
Under the Memorandum of Understanding, all members of the FFFT agree to work together with other relevant stakeholders to honour, respect and support the government’s international, regional and national commitments towards gender equality and empowering women and girls through the National Policy on Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Tonga (WEGET) and under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.

More recently, FFFT under its former name of the Women in Leadership Coalition was instrumental in supporting and representing the voices of 564 women from the Informal Sector who were impacted by the COVID19 lockdown to access government’s grant in response to COVID19. The group is looking to continuing to promote women’s full participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, cultural, private and public life.

FI-E-FI-A ’a Fafine Tonga comprises 6 representatives of organisations and associations working in the gender and development sector. Mrs Betty Blake, Chair of the FFFT highlighted that membership for FFFT is open and invited women’s groups and individual women who support the purpose, values and goals of FI-E-FI-A ’a Fafine Tonga to join the network.

The FI-E-FI-A ’a Fafine Tonga acknowledges the Balance of Power Tonga Country Program in facilitating and supporting FFFT’s work. Balance of Power is an initiative of the Australian Government-funded Pacific Women program.


For further information, please contact,
Keasi T. Pongi
Executive Director – Civil Society Forum of Tonga
Baron Rd, Vaiola Motu’a Premises
Nuku’alofa, Tonga.
Phone: (676) 28282 / (676) 28140

Official Launch of the EU EDF 11th Project with the Civil Society Forum of Tonga

Official Launch of the EU EDF 11th Project with the Civil Society Forum of Tonga


Enhancing the Engagement of Tongan Civil Society in the Policy Dialogue and Governance with the Government

(9/7/2020, Nuku’alofa) – The Government of Tonga and the European Union (EU) are joining their efforts to further promote good governance and to strengthen the policy dialogue capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) in an effort to influence public policies and institutions that serve citizens’ interests. With dedicated effort, CSOs can help to inform decision-making processes with evidence and research.

A 2-year initiative, proposed by the Civil Society Forum of Tonga and its partner Tupou Tertiary Institute, has been selected by the Government of Tonga following a call for proposals and benefits from a funding of TOP$245,000 from the European Union. The project aims at “Enhancing the engagement of CSOs in the policy and budget processes and building their capacity in research and data collection within the focal areas of Gender, Disability, Youth and Energy”.

The research unit from Tupou Tertiary Institute, under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Ungatea Kata will study the process of national planning and policy-making including public finance management processes and will assess CSOs capacities in terms of research-based advocacy and data collection. The findings of these researches will inform the trainings to the CSOs. In addition, the action will support the development of an overarching CSOs & Government Engagement Framework to structure and facilitate the policy dialogue.

The Honourable Minister of Finance – Hon. Tevita Lavemaau highlighted: “We are looking forward to a more effective participation of the civil society in the national development and budget process. This initiative is timely and complements adequately a recent step forward made with the first budget briefing for representatives of Tonga’s civil society organizations by the Legislative Assembly”.

The Civil Society Forum of Tonga indicated that, ‘‘we hope that the action will contribute to creating a genuine partnership between the Government and CSOs by enhancing the capacities of CSOs to interact constructively. The financial support provided by the European Union is giving us the means to address some of the problems faced by CSOs to engage adequately in policy dialogue”.


Media Contacts:
Mrs Mele’ana Moala’eua, Office of the Civil Society Forum of Tonga,
Tel: +676 28 282, Email:

Background Information:
This initiative is part of the Technical Cooperation Facility and Support to Civil Society Support Program implemented by the Government of Tonga and financed by European Union under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF).