SOS: The World’s Oceans Facing Emergency Singapore Summit Set To Worsen The Crisis

SINGAPORE, November 5, 2015 | Civil society organisations from across the globe are highly critical of an international oceans conference to be held in Singapore next week. Mis-named the Sustainable Ocean Summit, the conference is touted as providing a platform to advance industry-driven solutions to ocean sustainability challenges.

Indeed, the world’s oceans are in dire straits largely due to industrial activity. Catastrophic extinctions are forecasted over the next two decades if pollution, resource extraction and climate change are not mitigated[1]. In apparent ignorance of this, the Summit’s program maps a way forward based on maintaining existing forms of ocean exploitation and facilitating new ones, such as seabed mining.

“What the world’s oceans need are community and government driven solutions to the crisis created by industrial capitalism”, says Riaan Eksteen of the Namibian based Swakopmund Matters. “Our national Government in Namibia respected the concerns of its citizens about the unknown risks of seabed mining and has established a moratorium on this industry. Where are the voices of civil society at this summit on ocean sustainability?”

Mr Eksteen continued, “As highlighted in the Pope’s recent Encyclical on the Environment[2], we pursue at the planet’s peril the relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment in the name of profits, excessive faith in technology, and political short sightedness. This conference looks set to reinforce all of these destructive elements.”

Namibia is not the only country to lead the way with a precautionary approach to seabed mining. A moratorium has also been declared in Northern Australia[3] and in New Zealand the Environmental Protection Authority set a global precedent by declining[4] the country’s first two seabed mining applications over the last eighteen months.

Phil McCabe of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining notes, “With 99% of public submissions opposed to the first sea bed mining application, it’s clear that there is no social licence for an industry that promises little but further degradation of the marine environment. It’s ironic that the acronym for the Summit is SOS as this does accurately describe the state that industry has left our oceans in.”

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign states, “there is no place for the promotion of deep sea mining at a conference purporting to be about ocean sustainability. The world’s oceans are already under intense pressure. To discuss deep sea mining in the same breath as corporate responsibility is an oxymoron[5]. This conference is not about the sustainability of our oceans but about securing industry access to marine resources. This is incredibly short sighted even from the narrow point of view of industry self interest: once marine ecosystems collapse so will industry profits as will local, national and regional economies.”

According to Dr. Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, “Changing operating environments from terrestrial to marine doesn’t change the nature of the mining industry itself. Communities all around the world bear testimony to the devastation caused by mining in the name of profits. Now the same industry and the same investors with the same profit motives are seeking to plunder the oceans. This Summit’s attempt to dress this up in the language of sustainability will not enable the leopard to change its spots.”

For more information:

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum (Australia), hrose@vic.chariot.net.au, +61 413 201 793

Mr Riaan Eksteen (Namibia) swakopmundmatters@swakop.com, + 264 81 4135789

Phil McCabe (New Zealand)   PHIL@solscape.co.nz, +64 27 294 3451

Dr. Catherine Coumans (Canada), catherine@miningwatch.ca, +1 613-569-3439


[1] IUCN State of ocean report 2013, http://www.iucn.org/?13784/Latest-review-of-science-reveals-ocean-in-critical-state;

WWF’s Living Blue Planet report, http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/search_wwf_news/?254972/Report-shows-dwindling-fortunes-for-oceans; and Caritas state of the environment report for Oceania 2015 http://www.caritas.org.nz/what-we-do/advocacy/environmental-justice/state-environment-report-oceania

[2] http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

[3] https://www.wilderness.org.au/articles/seabed-mining-moratorium

[4] New Zealand EPA decision refusing a marine consent for Chatham Rock Phosphate Limited

http://www.epa.govt.nz/eez/EEZ000006/EEZ000006_CRP Final Version of Decision.pdf and refusal of a marine consent for Trans Tasman Resources Limited, http://www.epa.govt.nz/eez/EEZ000004/EEZ000004_Trans_Tasman_Resources_decision_17June2014.pdf

[5] For definition of oxymoron see http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oxymoron