Deep Dilemmas: Namibia's Concerns on Deep Seabed Exploitation

Sunday, 16 February 2014
Columbus EF (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Bronwen Currie , National Marine Information and Research Center, Swakopmund, Namibia
Endowed with both rich biological and mineral resources, the coastal upwelling waters off Namibia are targeted by exploitation of both. The rich fishery resources have provided lucrative industries for decades and since the independence of Namibia in 1990 are under exemplary management.  However recent applications to bulk-dredge the offshore sediments for recovery of phosphate has led to serious environmental concerns and major questions as to whether the sustainable fisheries will not suffer if such mining goes ahead, and put at risk the livelihoods that the important fishing sector supports. Namibia is cautious to be the first-in-the-world to embark on this type of bulk seabed mining, insisting that thorough scientific and socio-economic information is needed before any decisions are made. For this a moratorium period on seabed mining for industrial minerals has recently been declared by the Government of Namibia. Most developing countries face similar predicaments - how to increase GDP and urgently reduce high unemployment - so that new ventures to exploit their natural resources are tempting. Particularly in developing countries, access to relevant data and information is a critical need, which is rarely met, and the governments of these countries are challenged to make hasty decisions without appropriate scientific backing. The extreme importance of political will and strong national legal tools for sustainability in resource exploitation in the ocean, will be emphasized.