On 19 and 22 April 2021, the Secretariat of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) held the fourth annual meeting of exploration contractors to discuss issues of common interest and key areas of work relevant to contractors.
The virtual meeting involved 72 representatives of ISA exploration contractors and was chaired by Ms. Jennifer Warren, Director, Regulatory Affairs of UK Seabed Resources Ltd. Among other issues, participants discussed the progress with the development of exploitation regulations in the Area; the progress in building the capacities of developing States, Members of ISA through the Contractor Training Programme; progress in the development and implementation of the data management strategy of ISA; the review of the effectiveness of the network of areas of particular environmental interest (APEIs) in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ); the production of a compendium of the work and achievements of contractors in relation to exploration activities in the Area and the establishment of a new unit within the ISA Secretariat in charge of compliance assurance and regulatory management.
Some of the highlights of the meeting include:
- Adjustments of the Contractors Training Programme to take into account the priority capacity development needs identified by developing States Members of ISA and compiled by the Secretariat as well as the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The introduction, as part of ISA’s data management strategy, of a new template for the submission of contractors’ periodic report as a way to streamline the reporting process and reduce the time spent both by contractors while preparing the reports and by the Secretariat while reviewing them. Tools were also made available to contractors to ensure the smooth conversion of older data into the new format.
- Progress with the development of exploitation regulations in the Area.
- Contractors took note of the results of the Deep CCZ Biodiversity Synthesis Workshop and of the need for them to carry out more sampling in order to validate the APEIs network and its effectiveness, which in turn will support the implementation of a regional environmental management approach in the CCZ. Participants also acknowledged that a joint approach among ISA, the scientific community and contractors will be required to develop a model to guide sampling programmes and agreed to start a discussion soon.
- Contractors enthusiastically embraced the idea put forward by the Secretariat to produce for the first time a compendium of their exploration work and main achievements. The first issue of the compendium will be published in 2021 and will highlight how the work of contractors is contributing to advance deep-sea science, technology development and capacity development of developing States members of ISA.
- Contractors welcomed the establishment of a new Compliance Assurance and Regulatory Management Unit within the Secretariat as a way to reinforce the role of ISA under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1994 Agreement.
The Secretariat has been holding annual meetings with contractors since 2017 in order to facilitate discussion and progress on key areas of work involving contractors. Previous meetings were held in Jamaica (2017), Poland (2018) and China (2019).
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