New Marine Resource Opportunities, Fresh Challenges
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In this context, marine species and microorganisms that have evolved to exist in extreme environments, so-called "extremophiles," are of particular interest. Such environments and habitats include the deep sea, as well as in the vicinity of seamounts, hydrothermal vents, methane seeps. Such features have been discovered on the extended continental shelf. Organisms living here have adapted to survive in the complete absence of light, in conditions of extremely high pressure, in either low or very high (for example in the vicinity of a hot water vent) temperatures, or in environments characterised by extreme salinity or acidity.
This has led to the emergence of "bioprospecting" and the deep seabed, including outer continental shelf areas, are likely to be a focus for these activities. This represents a potentially rich resource and opportunity for coastal states. Indeed, marine biotechnology-related products were estimated to be worth $100 billion (USD) in the year 2000 alone.86 The potential for further growth in marine bioprospecting is emphasised by the fact that around 1,000 new marine natural products are reported annually. This points to how biodiversity-rich yet under-explored and thus little known the oceans are. Indeed, it has been suggested that the oceans are ninety-five percent unexplored." Moreover, the number of ocean-dwelling species has been estimated at around ten million-a figure fifty times greater than the number of marine species reported thus far. In this context, deepwater areas hold particular promise as they are likely to host unique extremophiles and also because these areas are least explored, notwithstanding considerable advances in technologies applicable to exploring deep sea areas made in recent decades. This is illustrated by the fact that of over 30,000 marine natural products reported since the 1960s, less than two percent derive from the deep sea organisms.89
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Advances in deep sea resource exploration and exploitation technologies have also given rise to the prospect of accessing seabed resources not only within areas of outer continental shelf but in deeper waters and areas beyond national jurisdiction. While developments in the area are proceeding apace, notably in respect of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the Equatorial North Pacific Ocean and in the Central Indian Basin of the Indian Ocean,n areas of outer continental shelf subject to national jurisdiction are likely to be particularly attractive areas for development from the perspective of the coastal states, which hold sovereign rights over these areas. Indeed, it has been estimated that the Clarion-Clipperton Zone alone holds more than 27 billion tonnes of nodules containing of the order of 7 billion tonnes of manganese, 340 million tonnes of nickel, 290 million tonnes of copper and 78 million tonnes of cobalt as well as rare earths needed for the production of many hi-tech products such as smart phones.78 This led the International Seabed Authority's (ISA) Legal Counsel, Michael Lodge, to comment in May 2013 that "We are on the threshold of a new era of deep seabed mining."79 While the figures suggested may appear extraordinary, there seems little doubt that interest in the exploitation of these resources will be sustained so long as commodity prices remain high. The ISA's approval of exploration plans for the development of cobalt-rich manganese crusts by Chinese and Japanese concerns during its nineteenth session in July 2013 also appears to bear out the seriousness of this interest.80