The Impending Land Grab on the Ocean Floor

Maywa Montenegro over at Seed:13frontier368

On August 2, 2007, Russia dropped a titanium capsule bearing its flag onto the Arctic floor, highlighting its bid for a chunk of seabed property thought to contain billions of dollars in untapped energy. The move snagged media headlines as other nations—including the US, Canada, Denmark, and Norway—sped north to make competing claims. Weeks later, hearings began in the US Senate, in which presidents from America’s largest oil, shipping, and telecommunications companies, representatives from the armed forces, and senior Bush administration officials urged the Foreign Relations Committee to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). “In the year ahead we could see a historic dividing up of many millions of square kilometers of offshore territory with management rights to all its living and non-living resources on or under the seabed,” said Paul Kelly, president of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation. “An adviser to developing states preparing their own submissions said recently, ‘This will probably be the last big shift in ownership of territory in the history of the Earth. Many countries don’t realize how serious it is.'”

Never before has the world’s attention been so fixed on the deep ocean. Inflated oil, mineral, and gas prices, coupled with collapsing global fisheries, are pushing industries into remote seas once too expensive to tap. Pressing concerns about global warming are bringing scientists to explore uncharted depths—both to understand how they influence climate and to take the pulse of abyssal life before human impact irrevocably transforms it. At a time when still so little is known about the ocean’s very nature, it has suddenly become a place of extraordinary geopolitical, economic, and scientific value.