Deep-sea mining has larger-than-expected impacts on sea life, study says

The fast-growing practice of deep-sea mining poses significant threats to important sea creatures, such as fish, shrimp, corals, and sponges, according to a new study. 

Researchers say they found evidence that disturbances caused by deep-sea mining can slash populations of nearby ocean animals roughly in half and impact marine life across larger areas than scientists have previously thought.  

The study, published Friday in Current Biology, adds to evidence that mining the deep ocean for minerals used to make electric vehicles and renewable energy components has harmful ecological impacts that must be weighed against the climate benefits of transitioning away from fossil fuels. 

Although deep sea mining may be one way to meet the world’s growing demand for certain metals, “it also has the potential to greatly disrupt many deep-sea habitats,” the new paper states. 

“Is it worth it to get these [metals] and mess up the sea versus mess up somewhere else? I don’t know, but we have to use everything we have to make the right call,” said Travis Washburn, an ocean floor ecologist and author on the new study.