The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is currently developing the regulatory framework for commercial-scale mining of minerals on the deep seabed. In this context, the ISA has to balance seabed mining with its mandate to protect and preserve the marine environment from harmful effect caused by mining operations. One potential tool to help strike this balance is adaptive management, which the ISA seeks to incorporate into its future regulatory framework. This article discusses some of the challenges to achieving adaptive management and demonstrates that the current regulatory options make it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve adaptive management. Adaptive management will require procedural mechanisms through which the ISA can adjust environmental standards continuously. This article examines whether the current regulatory framework for mineral exploration provides for such flexibility. Specifically, it discusses four potential ways, including their benefits and shortcomings, in which environmental standards may be adjusted during exploration work. The discussion highlights the current lack of comprehensive mechanisms to adjust environmental standards as one of the barriers to achieving adaptive management. This provides crucial information for the design of the future regulatory framework.
- Adaptive management
- Marine environment
- deep seabed mining
- International Seabed Authority
- United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea