There’s an underwater land rush taking place around the globe. Last year, reports Seed, Russia made claims on a resource-rich section of the Arctic. Other nations have followed suit, pushing to extract resources from the area’s ocean waters. Meanwhile, mining concerns are planning to tap dense mineral deposits in hot-water vents, which are teeming with unknown fauna. And while plans for deep-sea extraction often include efforts to minimize environmental impact, Plenty reports online that scientists don’t understand deep-ocean ecosystems well enough to adequately anticipate problems.
All of this, says Seed, has led to increased internal pressure for the United States to join most of the world’s nations by ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. The 1982 treaty puts the mid-ocean under international jurisdiction, ensuring a more careful approach to deep-sea mining. It also gives each country economic rights to its own continental shelf. Since the U.S. shelf is massive, domestic companies now have even more incentive to lobby for the environmentally friendly treaty, which up until now a few senators have blocked in the name of national sovereignty.