The Mexican who wants to save the seabed from mining

  • 10

Quietly, as important things often happen, there is a savage fight to define the future of the oceans and its international governance: the regulation of deep-sea mining. There, in the seabed, billions of euros in valuable minerals are hidden and this endangers thousands of species and ecosystems that we are only now beginning to study.

Fortunately, people like the Mexican Guadalupe Bribiesca-Contreras of the Natural History Museum in London is committed to safeguarding them.

An underwater controversy. It will come as no surprise to anyone that deep sea mining is a highly controversial topic. On the side of the mining companies, makes sure that the minerals that we can extract from the seabed are essential to ensure the success of the energy transition. After all, the “decarbonization” of the world implies huge needs for materials with which to make batteries and other devices (such as wind turbines or solar panels).

On the other hand, on the side of environmental activists, researchers and other industries (such as fishing) denounce the risks disturbance of fishing grounds, water pollution or destruction of ecosystems that involve a type of practice that is very difficult to control. However, this risk is often more theoretical than anything else: the bottom of the sea, especially the one that is at great depths, is a complete unknown.


lack of technology. If until now we did not have the necessary technology to extract minerals from the seabed, it was simply because we did not have enough technology to work on the seabed. That has changed, and yet what happens down there remains a huge mystery. A mystery that works in favor of the mining companies because without defining what is in danger, that danger is so ethereal that it cannot be legislated to prevent it effectively.

A small Pacific island is about to change the future of the world's seabed: the legal battle over deep sea mining

The mission to light up the ocean. Guadalupe Bribiesca-ContrerasMexican and marine biologist the Museum of Natural History is a key piece of a project that tries to make a catalog of what happens at depths of up to more than 5000 meters. As explained on the BBC, thanks to a remotely operated vehicle, the Bribiesca-Contreras team has managed to collect 55 specimens belonging to 48 different species.

Of these, at least seven of those species are new and that number is expected to soon reach thirty. But that’s not the most amazing thing. As the researcher herself says, what they have found are beings that “do very strange things.”

A most bizarre universe. “For example, you have carnivorous sponges, which sounds super weird. One would expect them to be like a carnivorous plant that is kind of waiting for food to drop on it.” […] But we have videos where you see a little shrimp pass by and the sponge changes shape to engulf it and then spits out the exoskeleton,” explained Bribiesca-Contreras.

Others of these beings, “produce light” or have managed to have reproductive adaptations such as “males become parasites of females” in such a way that these “always have a reservoir of sperm for when they want to reproduce.” They found tiny creatures, but also “a sea cucumber more than half a meter long and a sponge about a meter long.”

The race to know a world in danger. As the countdown to deep sea mining continues, efforts to answer all the questions we have about this underwater world have only just begun. Y, as Bribiesca-Contreras says“If we don’t even know what lives there, we don’t know the damage that trying to extract these resources will cause.”

Image | deepccz

Quietly, as important things often happen, there is a savage fight to define the future of the oceans and its…

Quietly, as important things often happen, there is a savage fight to define the future of the oceans and its…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.