A Jaeckel, ‘An Environmental Management Strategy for the International Seabed Authority? – The Legal Basis’ 30(1) International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 93-119 (2015) (open access)
The number of contracts granted by the International Seabed Authority (isa) to explore minerals on the seabed beyond national jurisdiction has increased greatly in recent years and commercial exploitation is scheduled to start in the near future. A core challenge is to establish adequate environmental protection measures, procedural safeguards, and institutional arrangements to balance commercial mining with environmental protection. This is especially important given the urgent need to utilize existing legal and institutional frameworks, such as the isa, to protect marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This article analyses the isa’s mandate to adopt a comprehensive environmental management strategy. It outlines the legal basis of eight potential components of such a strategy. Although several of these have been endorsed by the isa on a temporary or ad hoc basis, substantial gaps remain. An environmental management strategy could provide for systematic environmental safeguards during both exploration and exploitation for minerals.