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Whale warning as clock ticks towards deep sea mining

Exeter, United Kingdom – WEBWIRE
© Paul Hilton / Greenpeace 
Pacific Ocean, Polynesia, Tonga
© Paul Hilton / Greenpeace Pacific Ocean, Polynesia, Tonga

Scientists warn deep sea mining could be a “significant risk to ocean ecosystems” with “long lasting and irreversible” impacts, including risks to globally endangered species, like blue whales. University of Exeter and Greenpeace Research Laboratories today published a new peer-reviewed paper[1] that focuses on the overlap between cetaceans (such as whales, dolphins and porpoises) and target sites for deep sea mining, especially in the Pacific Ocean. The study says urgent research is needed to assess threats to these mammals, particularly noise pollution from proposed mining operations. 

Deep sea mining companies haven’t yet received permission to start mining on an industrial scale, but they are pressuring governments to get the green light to start mining industrially for the first time in July 2023. The licences that could be granted this year would open hundreds of kilometres of seafloor to mining. Mining companies are also looking to target seabed mineral resources in areas around other important ecosystems like seamounts and deep sea hydrothermal vents.

 Dr Kirsten Thompson of the University of Exeter said: 
“Imagine if there was 24/7 construction work in your neighbourhood, your life would change dramatically. Your health would be compromised, you might change your behaviour to escape from it. It’s no different for whales or dolphins.”

The Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) between Mexico and Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean provides habitat for at least 25 cetacean species, including dolphins and sperm whales, but is of extra interest to mining companies aiming to extract metals and minerals from seafloor habitats. So far 17 exploratory deep sea mining contracts have been granted in this part of the Pacific Ocean. If permission is granted, giant machines weighing more than a blue whale are expected to work 24-hours a day, producing sounds at varying depths that could overlap with the frequencies cetaceans use to communicate

Louisa Casson, Global Project Leader, Greenpeace Stop Deep Sea Mining campaign said: “Deep sea mining companies are determined to start plundering the oceans, despite little research about the impacts this industry would have on whales, dolphins and other species. Deep sea mining could damage the oceans in ways we do not fully understand – and at the expense of species like blue whales that have been the focus of conservation efforts for many years. Governments cannot uphold their commitments to protect the oceans if they allow deep sea mining to start.”

The International Seabed Authority, the intergovernmental body charged with regulating deep sea mining in international waters, will meet in March and July, in Kingston, Jamaica. At the last round of negotiations in November 2022, governments including New Zealand, France and Chile opposed commercial pressure to allow deep sea mining to start in 2023 and instead called for a precautionary moratorium.


Photos available HERE


[1] The scientific paper, published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, is titled: Urgent assessment needed to evaluate potential impacts on cetaceans from deep seabed mining.

[2] Link to scientific paper:

For media enquiries:
Sol Gosetti, Media Coordinator for the Stop Deep Sea Mining campaign, Greenpeace International:, +44 (0) 07807352020 WhatsApp +44 (0) 7380845754

Greenpeace International Press Desk:, +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

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