Skip to content

Stopping deep-sea mining at the ISA

Background

The threat of deep-sea mining (DSM) is looming over our ocean and our planet. If allowed to go ahead, scientists warn that it will cause irreversible destruction of ecosystems and could exacerbate the climate emergency. Humanity is at a crossroads. It’s not too late to stop DSM – and the place this decision must be taken is the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in Kingston, Jamaica. The ISA negotiations in July 2023 was a critical opportunity to encourage States to hit the brakes on DSM.

Objective

Our goal was for the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) to be a strong voice for civil society at the ISA negotiations, calling on ISA Member States to: publicly support a moratorium on DSM; prevent any mining operations being greenlit; and transform ISA into a transparent organization dedicated to conserving the deep sea for the benefit of all humanity.

Approach and delivery

Communications INC’s strategy was to create a wall of noise around the threat of DSM to boost the agency, urgency and efficacy of the DSCC’s message. The campaign mobilized the power of coalition by engaging with DSCC’s 100+ member organizations to amplify a strong overarching message: “Deep-sea mining – You don’t need it, we don’t want it, it’s not worth the risk.”  

We deployed a range of tactics to shine a spotlight on the murky world of ISA negotiations and drive global momentum for a moratorium, including: building a group of like-minded ISA Member States and identifying a political route forward; highlighting studies showing DSM is not a viable route to decarbonization; and encouraging the participation of Indigenous, NGO and other global voices.

Ahead of the ISA meetings we launched the new DefendTheDeep.org website and campaign action, stressing the danger of the “Exploit, Extract, Extinct” pathway and inviting people to email their Ministers to call on them to support a moratorium. We developed a toolkit of unbranded products, including an online “ISA Tracker” on the DSCC website, high-quality social media assets, legacy media outreach, and talking points to use at the negotiations. And we worked with DSCC members to stage public displays of action at the UN in New York and at the EU in Brussels.

To kick off the meetings, our campaign team held a media briefing attended by over 50 journalists and later watched by another 216. We also provided a press kit and spokesperson list that acted as a vital one stop shop for journalists. Our campaign team in Kingston posted high-level analysis of the negotiations on social media and via updates to the ISA Tracker, as well as videos on social media to highlight breakthroughs and conflicts. We also held a government workshop to build solidarity around a moratorium, and staged a social media takeover by the iconic deep-sea “critters”.

Impact

Our campaign helped secure the most important outcome of the negotiations: no DSM was given a greenlight. By calling on States to stand up and be counted, the campaign boosted the number of champion countries from 14 to 21, as Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, Brazil, Finland, Ireland and Portugal all announced their support for a moratorium or precautionary pause during July 2023.

Deep-sea mining was mentioned in 6,467 press articles from 1 July – 1 August (136% increase compared to March 2023) and the DSCC was mentioned in 1,315 articles. DefendTheDeep.org had 8,600 unique users and 3,228 emails were sent to Ministers. More than 24,000 visits were made to the DSCC website and the ISA Tracker was viewed nearly 2,000 times.

The July 2023 ISA negotiations were a turning point. Increased public engagement and the rise in media and social coverage forced delegates to consider the possibility of a moratorium as an agenda item for the first time. Opposition to DSM at the ISA became stronger and more coordinated, effectively ending the business-as-usual era of ‘Exploit, Extract, Extinct’.