Policy ForumOceans

A Call for Deep-Ocean Stewardship

Science  16 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6185, pp. 696-698
DOI: 10.1126/science.1251458

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Summary

Covering more than half the planet, the deep ocean sequesters atmospheric CO2 and recycles major nutrients; is predicted to hold millions of yet-to-be-described species; and stores mind-boggling quantities of untapped energy resources, precious metals, and minerals (1). It is an immense, remote biome, critical to the health of the planet and human well-being. The deep ocean (defined here as below a typical continental shelf break, >200 m) faces mounting challenges as technological advances—including robotics, imaging, and structural engineering—greatly improve access. We recommend a move from a frontier mentality of exploitation and single-sector management to a precautionary system that balances use of living marine resources, energy, and minerals from the deep ocean with maintenance of a productive and healthy marine environment, while improving knowledge and collaboration.