United Nations
Improving the assessment of essential ecological functions of the deep sea oceans through long-term underwater oceanographic observatories in the Area.
by International Seabed Authority (Intergovernmental organization)
Efforts to discriminate natural variation from anthropogenic impacts in nature are not possible without a long-term assessment of essential environmental variables. This is crucially important for a sustainable management plan for deep sea mineral resources in the Area. Therefore, the ISA is proposing to implement a monitoring long-term observatory (LTOS) which will, in its initial stage, be using available technology (solid state sensors) tethered or untethered in the Area, where plans of works for exploration have been approved.

Enhancement of the understanding of ecosystems functions and their role in climate change, as well as in identifying the magnitude of human impacts and vulnerabilities, require efforts to: 1) coordinate worldwide initiatives and, 2) provide the means for continuous and long-term monitoring/observing systems (LTOS) of the deep sea ocean realm.

The need to narrow the gap of knowledge on ecosystems understanding of the deep sea in the Area was clear in the last meeting of DOSI-GOOS-DOOS. They are many initiatives already in place for observing the oceans top 200 m and the deep sea in different EEZs across the world. These initiatives are already coordinated by GOOS-IOC. In this context the ISA is proposing to implement a monitoring long-term observatory (LTOS) which will, in its initial stage, be using available technology (solid state sensors) tethered or untethered in the Area under approved plan of works for exploration. If technology permits, this system will be upgraded.

It is anticipated that the information collected will provide valuable insight on the understanding of ecosystems of the deep sea in the Area. This initiative will be fostered by stakeholders working in the Area (contractors, scientific community, ICPC, others).

Stakeholders will benefit directly with the information gathered allowing them to respond to environmental issues of global concern. Deep sea mining contractors holding approved plan of works will be able to provide sound environmental assessments of their particular sites, concerning the ecosystems understanding and its functions. In turns, the ISA as well as Member States will be allowed to provide assertive environmental management plans for all the deep sea habitats where plan of work for mineral exploration have already been approved.

The LTOS will be tested for a year on one site and thereafter will be reproduced in all the oceans basins, where plans of work for mineral exploration have already been approved, in consecutive years, if funding permits.
Updates to voluntary commitment
By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
Type of commitment
Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
Type of commitment
April 2019
Construction and dry testing of LTOS
December 2018
Concept design of pioneer LTOS
December 2020
Design online portal for dissemination of LTOS information
October 2020
Deployment and testing of LTOS
Other, please specify
Resources from the ISAs biannual budget complemented by voluntary contributions.
Basic information
Time-frame: December 2018 - December 2020
ISA/Member States/University of Hawaii, School of Ocean and earth science and technology
Ocean Basins
  • Global
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Contact information
Alfonso Ascencio-Herrera, Legal counsel/ Deputy to the Secretary-General, alfonsoa@isa.org.jm,
Kingston, Jamaica
Other SDGs
United Nations