Chapter 7 Valuing the Deep – Expert Perspectives

7.0.1 Introduction

This chapter presents the results of the qualitative research undertaken during the Valuing the Deep project. One of the most important challenges facing the project was investigating the ‘who, what and where’ of marine genetic research and understanding the current and potential value of marine genetic resources in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction. Given the low level of available public information on these issues we decided to identify and consult with experts in the field of deep-sea research and marine natural products. In doing so we also recognised the importance of consulting with experts in this area about biodiversity, sustainable use and priorities for the future. In designing the consultation process we selected the Delphi study method over other approaches, such as a survey, because it involves the development of a structured conversation with experts in a particular field. The Delphi method dates back to the 1950s and was originally developed by the RAND Corporation as a tool for forecasting military capability requirements in the context of the Cold War based on the consensus views of experts [105107]. The term Delphi is a reference to the Oracle of Delphi. The Delphi method has been widely applied across a range of fields, notably health planning, education, information technology and market forecasting, but has seen very limited use in environmental decision-making [108110]. The method basically involves recruiting experts to engage in a structured conversation about complex questions, typically involving the future, and ultimately aims to build consensus around particular issues.

A Delphi study is distinguished from more familiar survey methods because it involves multiple rounds of questions in which expert responses from earlier rounds are fed back to the group to elicit further responses and build a conversation. In order that participants may speak freely, a Delphi study is entirely anonymous. The end result of a Delphi study is typically one or more scenarios that represent the consensus views of the group as a whole on a topic. For readers familiar with international policy debates, a Delphi study is closest in nature to a series of expert group meetings or contact groups with the exception that the participants do not know the source of the statements that they respond to and do not meet each other. In the Valuing the Deep study we concentrated on eliciting a range of responses from marine research experts relating to a potential implementing agreement within the framework of UNCLOS. At the time of writing we have stopped short of pursuing a full set of consensus statements on possible elements of an implementing agreement from the experts and this may be addressed at a future date.

In planning the Delphi study we identified email addresses in the Web of Science data discussed in chapter 3. We divided expertise by topic (e.g. hydrothermal vents etc.). In the case of industry we sought contacts in the scientific literature to ensure involvement of the private sector. However, contact details in the scientific literature were typically email addresses for public sector researchers with whom companies were collaborating. We then searched outside the literature for companies and business associations involved in the deep-sea.

In total 258 individual experts from countries around the world were contacted by email with invitations to participate in the study. The most common problem encountered with survey and Delphi study methods is the recruitment and retention of participants. Furthermore, the use of email addresses from publications was expected to produce problems with out-dated information. In selecting a large group of invitees the intention was to enhance recruitment.

We used Survey Monkey as the software for managing the invitation process and running the successive rounds of the Delphi study. One advantage of this software is that it allows for quantitative style questioning (e.g. to what extent do you agree with the following statement) and open-ended responses. We initiated research with a set of 53 open-ended starter questions developed by the research team. These included administrative enquiries on issues such as prior informed consent followed by a detailed set of questions on bioprospecting, habitats, threats, ecosystem services, access, benefit-sharing, intellectual property, technology transfer, research and funding priorities and protected areas. The aim of these questions was to elicit statements from experts that could start a conversation between experts based on their statements in later iterations of the study. From this point onwards the questions in later rounds were entirely based on statements from experts on particular topics. Interventions by the research team as chairs of the conversation were limited to selecting the statements on particular topics for the next round and ensuring that the balance of views on a topic were fairly represented.

One feature of the Delphi study was that the total number of participants differed from the total number of participants who completed all answers. Thus, in the starter round a total of 28 participants joined the study but 11 completed all answers. We therefore decided that only responses from participants who completed all questions would be taken into account. In the course of the first round we were contacted by the International Network for Scientific Investigation of the Deep-Sea (INDEEP) who kindly offered to assist by sending invitations to their network of deep-sea researchers. The remainder of the study proceeded with invitations to the wider group and through the INDEEP network.

In total 52 people from 18 countries participated in four rounds of question and answer sessions. With the exception of the starter round all questions took the form of quotes from participating experts on a topic. The other participating experts were invited to signal levels of agreement with these statements on a scale from strongly disagree, neither agree nor disagree, to strongly agree to provide a quantitative indicator of levels of agreement in the group. At the same time participants were encouraged to provide their own comments on the statements. These comments were then selected for inclusion in later rounds.

One feature of the results of this Delphi study that is worthy of note is that no effort is made to segment participants by type in the summary of discussion that follows. The basic principles that informed the process for summarising the discussion were that it should respect the diversity of views expressed by experts and reflect the balance of agreement on a particular topic. That is, we seek to provide a fair and accurate account of the range of views expressed. We begin with a breakdown of the participants by discipline, country and organisation.

7.0.2 Participation

Of the 258 experts initially invited to participate, 52, from 18 countries, participated across the four rounds of the Delphi study. Note that in a small number of cases the information provided below has been edited to avoid the possible identification of individuals. Of those providing details of their professional role, 38 described themselves as being either a scientist or scientific researcher in academia or industry, three as lawyers or legal researchers, four were policy advisors and one was an economist. All experts participated in an individual capacity rather than as representatives of their organisation.

The principal areas of expertise as described by the participating scientists were as follows:

  • Pelagic & benthic ecology
  • Physical volcanology and marine geophysics
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Marine ecology
  • Coastal and ocean management strategies
  • Chemosynthetic ecosystems
  • Biological oceanography
  • Natural product chemistry
  • Marine genetic biology and taxonomy
  • Microbial ecology
  • Deep-sea marine biology & ecology
  • Cephalopod biology
  • Population genetics
  • Seabed seeping fluids
  • Geology
  • Macrofaunal ecology
  • Molecular ecology of deep-sea invertebrates
  • Zoology
  • Molecular biology
  • Mid-water ecology
  • Marine species population connectivity
  • Nematology
  • Macrofaunal biodiversity
  • Tropical marine biology
  • Oceanography
  • Marine geochemistry

Other experts described their expertise and experience as follows:

  • Environmental law
  • International legal and policy associated with marine genetic resources
  • International environmental policy such as UNCLOS, CITES & CBD
  • Environmental and international law for biological governance
  • Government science policy advisor
  • Negotiator for the Nagoya Protocol
  • Secretariat of a regional organisation
  • Marine minerals mining
  • Advisor to an international conservation organisation
  • Deep-sea environmental impact assessment for the mining industry
  • Commercial law
  • Marine survey consultancy

Figure 7.1 displays the breakdown of participating countries. The majority of the participating experts were from the UK (16 experts representing 31% of the total) and the USA (14 experts representing 27% of the total). Three were from Australia and two were from Belgium, France and Japan respectively. The remaining countries were represented by one participant and included a participant from Brazil, Chile, Namibia, Fiji and Palau.

Figure 7.1: Distribution of Delphi Study Participants by Country

Figure 7.1: Distribution of Delphi Study Participants by Country

All participants in the Delphi study participated strictly in an individual capacity. The institutional affiliations of participants consisted of 28 universities and research institutes (including museums) from 18 countries. The organisations from which individual participants were drawn are summarised in Figure 7.2.

Figure 7.2: Participants by Organisation Type

Country University or Institute Conservation Organisation Government Private Sector
Australia 2
Belgium 1 1
Brazil 1
Chile 1
Fiji 1*
France 2
International 1
Ireland 1
Israel 1
Italy 1
Japan 1
Mauritius 1
Namibia 1
Netherlands 1*
Norway 1
Palau 1
Portugal 1
UK 7 1 2
USA 8 1 1*

7.0.3 Results

The Delphi study was designed to elicit responses on the actual and potential economic value of marine genetic resources. The precise aims of the study were as follows:

  1. Review marine genetic resources that are being harvested in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction and by whom;

  2. Assess current and potential applications of marine genetic resources;

  3. Assess the current and potential economic value of marine genetic resources;

  4. Assess the non-market benefits of marine genetic resources in terms of their value to ecosystem services or non-use values;

  5. Highlight cases of best practice with respect to using and managing marine genetic resources;

  6. Consider the potential contribution of marine genetic resources from Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction to economic growth over a 10 to 30 year period.

As such the main aims of the study were directed to elucidating answers to questions on the who, what, and where of marine genetic resources from Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction and in particular to soliciting views on actual and potential economic value. However, as the first known study of its type with the marine research community and stakeholders we were also keen to open up the questions to consider wider potential elements of an implementing agreement within the framework of UNCLOS to reflect the range of experts’ interests.

An important feature of a Delphi study is that questions are designed to elicit open-ended answers from participants. Questions on topics are also split across a round, rather than grouped together, to limit repeat answers. Direct quotes from respondents are then fed back to the participants in the next round as questions that participants are invited to agree with, disagree with and comment on. The core topics covered by the Delphi study were:

  1. Whether there is increased interest in marine genetic resources from ABNJ for research or commercial purposes.

  2. What marine genetic resources from ABNJ are being sampled, in what locations, by whom and for what purposes.

  3. Known or potential applications or products from marine genetic resources from ABNJ.

  4. Ecosystem services provided by the deep-sea in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction.

  5. The impact of the knowledge deficit about marine genetic resources on scientific and policy decision-making and how this deficit might be addressed.

  6. Research and funding priorities over the next 10-20 years.

  7. Whether there is a need for rules on access to marine genetic resources in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction.

  8. Whether there is a need for rules on benefit-sharing for marine genetic resources from Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction.

  9. Existing experiences of, and perspectives on, benefit-sharing.

  10. Perspectives on intellectual property rights.

  11. Perspectives on capacity building needs.

  12. Perspectives on technology transfer.

  13. Monitoring and Indicator requirements.

  14. Technologies that could advance understanding of marine genetic resources (including habitats), barriers to technology development or deployment, and the timelines for technology development and potential technology spillovers into other areas.

  15. Key impacts and threats to biodiversity in the deep-sea.

  16. Key habitats and habitats that have been neglected in existing debates on conservation, sustainable use and management of marine genetic resources.

  17. Challenges to conservation and sustainable use in ABNJ focusing on instruments such as protected areas and Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs).

  18. The adequacy of regulations on extractive activities.

In addressing these topics it immediately became clear that experts were much clearer on some topics than others. Two areas stood out:

  1. A lack of detail on actual products from marine genetic resources from Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction;
  2. A lack of detail on ecosystem services from marine habitats in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction beyond those usually ascribed to the marine environment.

In the case of the lack of detail on actual products from ABNJ we came to the conclusion that this reflects a general international lack of knowledge about actual products. More importantly this lack of detail appears to reflect a more fundamental difficulty in distinguishing national territorial waters from ABNJ. In the second case we think that the question of whether there are distinctive ecosystem services from ABNJ habitats relative to the marine environment as a whole could appropriately be addressed by more detailed consultation with marine experts.

Two types of data are available in the results from the Delphi study. The first is levels of agreement by experts with a particular statement on a topic made by another expert on a scale running from strongly agree to neither agree or disagree to strongly disagree. For the purpose of this summary we have clustered the strongly agree and agree categories and the disagree and strongly disagree categories into a simple “agree” or “disagree” format. We present levels of agreement with a particular statement as a percentage followed by the number of respondents e.g. (90% n=26) where n equals the number of participants agreeing with a statement from that round. In cases where there was a wider spread of views we provide the full information. It is also important to note that participation across the rounds varied. Thus, in round 2 and round 4 there were 28 and 29 full responses respectively. However, in round 3 there were 14 full responses. The purpose of a Delphi study is not statistical, as such the purpose is not to make statements such as “99% of marine experts think”. Rather, we use percentage scores across the rounds as indicators of the balance of agreement on a particular subject. To preserve the integrity of the statements from experts we adopted a policy of minimal editing. Where necessary spelling has been corrected and the start of full sentences capitalised. Where additional text is necessary to contextualise a statement for ease of reading these additions are placed in square brackets. The use of the acronym MGRs by participants stands for marine genetic resources.

In presenting a summary of the results we have organised the results by elements of a potential implementing agreement involving access and benefit-sharing as follows.


  1. Economic Interest and Potential

  2. Habitats and Human Impacts


  1. Access to marine genetic resources

  2. Benefit Sharing, Capacity Building & Technology Transfer

  3. Monitoring and Indicators

  4. Research Priorities Context

Economic Interest and Potential

Participants almost unanimously agree that access to and exploitation of marine genetic resources has become easier due to advances in technology meaning that a large amount of genetic material has become available (97% n=28). However, they are concerned that this potentially huge volume of data will lead to bottlenecks where data analytic techniques and demonstration of the efficacy of derived products will not keep pace with discovery (92% n=12). There is significant support for the idea that the deep-sea contains vast natural wealth, which will lead to new medicines, cosmetics and biofuels (83% n=24). Scientists have become particularly interested in the potential for genetic materials from microorganisms, which can be stored and cultured in laboratories (62% n=18) while noting that “keeping most marine bacteria alive is still extremely problematic”. However, some participants are also unsure whether there is sufficient accessible peer reviewed data to support speculation about the extent of current harvesting of marine genetic resources (48% n=14 agree, 38% n=11 neither agree nor disagree, 14% n=4 disagree).

In respect to organisms from the deep-sea, responses acknowledge that samples are often collected by researchers in collaboration with industry (83% n=24). Despite the widespread agreement that there is increasing interest in marine genetic resources, some participants caution that greater biodiversity in the deep does not necessarily equate to greater chemical diversity or novelty suggesting that a greater understanding of the biodiversity of coastal areas is still needed to establish whether deep-sea resources really are of greater value than those that are more accessible (83% n=24). It is agreed that species from extreme habitats have revealed unique properties of actual and potential use in industry and biotechnology (82% n=23) although there is a lack of agreement on whether extreme environments such as trenches and hydrothermal vents are the principal sites for harvesting of marine genetic resources (24% n=7 agree, 31% n=9 neither agree nor disagree, 45% n=13 disagree). Similarly, in considering novel enzymes or proteins for industrial processes and diagnostics, participants questioned whether there is evidence of marine genetic resources from ABNJ providing sufficient novelty to warrant the costs of sampling and analysis (46% n=6 agree, 31% n=4 neither agree nor disagree, 23% n=3 disagree). The following quotes reflect the range of views expressed by experts.

“Most of the work in ABNJs is classical biology trying to learn more about the oceans and the life within them.”

“Most samples are collected where a cruise happens to go (or locally). The deep sea hydrothermal stuff just gets more publicity because it’s unusual.”

“European funding (FP7, Horizon 2020) for marine resources often has an extremophile flavour to it. It is automatically assumed (incorrectly) that extreme environments produce novelty.”

“It is much easier [to collect in EEZs] and these environments are not specific to ABNJ. Scientists are interested in biodiversity which occurs in unique environments and maritime boundaries do not define environmental conditions.”

“It is automatically assumed that there is greater biodiversity and therefore greater novelty in the deep sea but in fact there is significant biodiversity even around the coast. A better understanding of the deep sea would establish if it is in fact better than what is available locally. I accept that some things will be specific (e.g. pressure tolerance) but others (thermal tolerance) can be sourced equally well within national waters or on land.”

“A lot of the species that have proved to be technologically useful have come from shallow-water vents and increasingly the same species is being found in both shallow and deep hydrothermal vents.”

“I don’t think we know enough about the novelty in our own backyard to be able to say that deeper and hotter mean better.”

Participants believe that current sampling effort is greatest in EEZs (75% n=21) with sampling from ABNJ being prohibitively expensive and restrictive and having limited productivity in terms of samples suitable for further marine bio-discovery work (75% n=21). Participants agreed that most ABNJ field expeditions have been undertaken by research institutions with limited involvement from industry, thus most discovery work has been carried out by academic and government researchers (72% n=21). As one participant observed:

“…there is limited industry involvement in the initial discovery phase, and it is mainly academic and government researchers that have been involved in the discovery of new genes and biomolecules. In terms of laboratory analysis, this has been mainly financed by state agencies and industry.”

There is no clear understanding of the geographical locations where most current harvesting, extraction or sampling is taking place. For example, a statement that marine genetic resources are mainly obtained from the Atlantic area down to 4,000 metres and on the abyssal plain or deep-sea troughs elicited a 79% (n=23) neither agree or disagree response. This appears to reflect wider uncertainty among experts with respect to bioprospecting locations with the following quotes reflecting wider views:

“There is patchy and largely anecdotal evidence from other areas such as deep sea hydrothermal vents. It may be that in fact most samples are actually being collected within areas of national jurisdiction.”

“Despite the potentially lucrative returns from marine genetic discoveries, there has been little bioprospecting activity in the deep sea, mainly because of the cost associated with sample collection and the long development time.”

Some participants were keen to broaden the debate beyond the current focus on deep-sea locations and charismatic extreme habitats such as hydrothermal vents:

“The midwater contains a plethora of species that are almost always overlooked at policy and management level and in popular treatments of the deep sea. The miniscule volume of the seabed is dwarfed by the vast expanse of the ocean’s midwater realm.”

Opinion varies on which applications of marine products are of most interest at present. The proposal that some markets, such as nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals, can offer a quicker return on investments when compared with drug discovery is generally accepted (46% n=6 agree, 38% n=5 neither agree nor disagree, 15% n=2 disagree). However, there was significant scepticism about nutraceuticals and their consequences for conservation.

“The nutraceutical and health industry represents the ‘low hanging fruit’ of this area where the development time and regulation are likely to be the least.”

“Nutritional markets are short-sighted and have over-exploited marine environments purely for profit with little or no proven health benefit.”

Some participants consider the most interesting area of current research to be enzymes for industrial processes. In summarising responses on future prospects, one participant captures the feelings of many, stating:

“The key word is ‘potentially’. There is a big difference between potential and reality. I have a lot of potential in my -80 degree freezer [of samples] collected off the UK coastline.”

The Delphi study also tackled the subject of whether policy-makers, as opposed to scientists, believe there is a growing economic interest in marine genetic resources from Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction. The majority of participants believe that policy makers perceive an increase of commercial interest in the “blue gold of marine biotech” (69% n=20) but point out that there has been little ABNJ bioprospecting due to the effort and costs involved and long product development times (69% n=20). Most bioprospecting would appear to be taking place within the EEZ and on continental shelves (68% n=19). In connection with the perceptions of policy-makers:

“I think there is a big fear of missing out and biotechnology is one of the worst culprits (unfortunately). This is illustrated by the number of regions and countries which promote biotechnology as a key future development - the knowledge based bio-economy!”

“Some policy makers and diplomats would like their scientists to be able to participate on equal footing in this growing field - using both MGR from within and beyond national jurisdiction. Other policy makers and diplomats recognize that their scientists may never have the capacity to exploit MGR in ABNJ, but feel that their country should benefit from exploitation of what many of them believe to be part of the ‘Common Heritage of Mankind’.”

“There is a real paranoia about missing out on something big in the marine ocean because no-one has control.”

A number of participants share a perception that there has been an increase in patent activity involving marine genetic resources (62% n=8 agree, 38% n=5 neither agree nor disagree, 0% n=0 disagree). This increased activity indicates that business interest in marine genetic resources is steadily rising, although participants only narrowly agree that this is the case (54% n=15 agree, 25% n=7 neither agree nor disagree, 21%n=6 disagree). Varied opinions on the level of current industry involvement are illustrated by the quotes below.

“The huge growth in the number of marine genetic resources being discovered, as well as being patented, illustrates that the use of marine genetic resources is no longer an obscure operation limited to a small number of purely research organisations, but one which is becoming an important business operation based on the development of new technologies.”

“I would say it’s a business prospect at the moment, not an operation.”

“…there is limited industry involvement in the initial discovery phase, and it is mainly academic and government researchers that have been involved in the discovery of new genes and biomolecules. In terms of laboratory analysis, this has been mainly financed by state agencies and industry.”

“They are being harvested for both academic and commercial reasons. The increasing pressure on academic organisations to produce value for money and demonstrate added value is driving this. Again, as observed in FP7 and Horizon 2020 calls.”

“…there is increased commercial interest but that does not necessarily translate into investing in the risk. Provide a marine derived product and they will take it but they won’t spend up front.”

“There is a big drive by the EU for exploitation of the marine environment rather than being industry driven. You generally go to them. If they come to you it is usually as part of a government-funded academic-industry project.”

Habitats and Human Impacts

There is consensus that lack of knowledge of species and habitats makes it difficult to assess the impacts of anthropogenic disturbance on marine ecosystems (100% n=29). Cold-water corals are an example of how lack of knowledge means that they have been under-protected and subsequently destroyed by trawling (90% n=26). However, participants think that the low levels of sampling required to develop products from marine genetic resources will not result in the same level of damage as that associated with major industries like mining and fisheries (93% n=26). In fact, a number of responses consider that the potential disruption caused by marine genetic resources sampling for research is minor in comparison to fishing and mining activity (89% n=25).

“If the sampling is small and controlled then the impacts could be negligible but the removal of large structures wholesale (e.g. active ‘black smoker’ stacks) where there is considerable biodiversity in place could have more serious repercussions. Limiting the size and number of samples which can be taken from a given habitat would help mitigate long-term or significant damage.”

“Collection of marine genetic resources is undertaken for research purposes, but pales into insignificance compared with harvesting such as fisheries, and other anthropogenic impacts.”

“[This is like] comparing apples and oranges. I don’t think anyone believes that collection of MGR is a huge threat to biodiversity, but unregulated collection of specimens of certain types of organisms that cannot be replicated in a lab may pose a threat to unique or rare species or ecosystems.”

“There is very little known about the conservation status of most of the species used so far as Marine Genetic Resources. We do not have a clear overview of where the samples are being taken from, how they are being taken or how many are being taken, or what is being done with them. It will only be possible to ensure that bio-prospecting is sustainable if we first have an overview of activities taking place.”

Deep-sea bottom trawling is considered the most destructive activity at present and it is compared with clear-cutting a forest in the way that it can completely destroy unknown and unexplored habitats (77% n=10). The removal of major structures, like black smoker chimneys, causes concern due to serious repercussions for local biodiversity (90% n=26). This sort of scenario has led to concerns that species will be lost before they have been discovered (86% n=25). These species may include valuable ones with properties that could lead to medical advances (75% n=9). Deep trenches are attracting interest and participants agreed that these rare habitats need to be protected from over exploitation (67% n=18).

“Biodiversity hot spots, such as coral reefs and seamounts, and in extreme environments, such as polar and hydrothermal vent ecosystems, are extremely vulnerable.”

“The small-scale insular seafloor habitats that host marine life endemic to those particular types of habitats (e.g. hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, and seamounts) are particularly vulnerable, because human activities can potentially remove entire”nodes" in their metapopulation networks.”

“Deep trench environments should be monitored as they may also host unique biodiversity.”

Participants generally agree that climate change will affect the marine carbon cycle in ways that are not yet fully understood or anticipated (69% n=9).

“Anthropogenic forcing of global climate will have effects on the marine carbon cycle and on the physical state of the oceans over this timescale, which will impact marine ecosystems in still not completely understood ways. Human activities (particularly resource extraction) are already perturbing local environments and are being conducted without concern as to microbial community integrity.”

In particular there was a widely held view across the Delphi study participants that mining will have a great impact on ecosystems – far greater than targeted sampling of microbial life (69% n=9).

“I consider the main threat to be deep-sea mining and chemical pollutants spread by ships and discharge from coastal states and via the atmosphere. It appears unlikely that we will be able to prevent biodiversity loss through ocean acidification so the prospect of effective action through UNCLOS is unlikely.”

The understanding of chemosynthetic community structure and functions and extremophile metabolism is seen as very important in developing new applications for marine genetic resources (85% n=11), as are those from biodiversity hotspots such as seamounts and coral reefs. These habitats are susceptible to harm from unsustainable fisheries, pollution, shipping, mining, climate change and acidification and therefore, participants agreed that a precautionary approach should be taken in sampling and exploitation (79% n=23). One participant highlighted plastics as an emerging issue in marine pollution.

“Today plastic is the major pervasive pollutant of the deep ocean, and its consequences are poorly understood.”

The future impacts of bioprospecting are unclear as this is a relatively new development and there is uncertainty around how much material will eventually be taken and whether it can be replicated synthetically. Participants agree that there must be careful assessments of any impacts that do occur (79% n=23). At present the conservation status of species used as marine genetic resources is largely unclear, as are the methods and locations of bioprospecting activity. It is felt that an overview of activities is needed to acquire this understanding (75% n=21).

There is also uncertainty about approaches needed for managing fisheries, with general agreement that fisheries activities have increased (48% n=14 agree, 24% n=7 neither agree nor disagree, 28% n=8 disagree) and that overfishing will lead to stocks that are unable to adapt to climate change (46% n=6 agree, 38% n=5 neither agree nor disagree, 15% n=2 disagree). Some participants suggested that fish should be managed as a genetic resource rather than as harvestable stock (46% n=6 agree, 38% n=5 neither agree nor disagree, 15% n=2 disagree).

“If allowed to continue, the bottom trawlers of the high seas will destroy deep sea species before we have even discovered much of what is out there. Facilitated by advances in technology, deep sea mining for polymetallic nodules, manganese crusts and polymetallic sulfides poses a major threat to our oceans, which are already suffering from a number of pressures including overfishing, pollution, and the effects of climate.”

“Fishing is the big environmental issue not MGRS.”

“…the small budgets of academia result in small scale collections at relatively long intervals giving the ecosystem time to recover in between collections. Harvesting for fisheries tends to have time and economic pressures leading to ignoring conservation guidelines.”

“I don’t think anyone believes that collection of MGRs is a huge threat to biodiversity but unregulated collection of specimens or different types of certain organisms that cannot be replicated in a lab may pose a threat to rare species or ecosystems.” Governance

Access to Marine Genetic Resources

In response to questions on access, participants tended to divide responses into comments on the regulation of access and practical issues involving access. We mainly deal here with the regulation of access and turn to practical issues involving access below.

One participant argues that there is currently a “wild west” mentality concerning the high seas:

“In order to ensure that the ‘wild west’ mentality that now prevails in the high seas is addressed, and that marine biodiversity is preserved for its own sake and for future generations, a new agreement under UNCLOS is needed to ensure healthy and productive marine ecosystems across the world’s oceans. Such a global agreement is urgently needed in order to make clear the obligation of countries to protect ocean life that is found both in high seas waters and the seabed in areas that are beyond the jurisdiction of any one country.”

However, we see a completely different interpretation of this same “gold rush” mentality from another participant:

“This debate has been fuelled by speculation and a”gold fever" mentality that has taken hold in the minds of policy makers and diplomats who don’t even know if there is sufficient commercial interest. This whole debate is one based on speculation conflated by speculation. Where is the hard, as opposed to speculative data to support argument for need for [a] regime?”

Somewhere between these divergent responses, a large majority of experts agree that current rules and regulations concerning the management and conservation of the high seas are inadequate to ensure the survival of marine life and marine genetic resources for future generations, and that a new agreement under UNCLOS is required to protect ocean life in open waters and on the seabed (93% n=27). A number of participants refer to a plethora of bodies with specific areas of responsibility in this area but lack of coordination.

“The way we manage our oceans looks like a patchwork quilt – one with many holes. There are a wide array of different organisations and agreements responsible for managing parts of the high seas, specific activities, or particular fish species. However, there is little or no coordination or cooperation between these different bodies.”

Participants also acknowledge that any regime to regulate access to marine genetic resources would require robust data on commercial activity and research, and as yet this data does not exist (77% n=10). An implementing agreement is considered essential to provide an umbrella framework to coordinate a coherent and integrated approach, and inform individual countries of their obligations in monitoring and managing activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction (76% n=22). There is some disagreement as to the body that would oversee such regulation with no universal support for it being a body established within the framework of UNCLOS which was perceived by some participants to have resulted in institutions which are heavily influenced by vested interests. The Global Ocean Commission was suggested as an alternative body that can ensure public engagement and make informed, transparent and independent decisions (58% n=7 agree, 25% n=3 neither agree nor disagree and 17% n=2 disagree).

“Certainly not under the auspices of UNCLOS. In my view the ISA, created under UNCLOS to administer deep-sea mining, has structures that would be utterly unacceptable in any public body in a democracy (i.e. the committee awarding licences is constituted by those who benefit financially from the award of licences; and a major petitioner for licences currently pays the travel expenses of delegates from developing nations who then assess its licence applications). Rather than ape the ISA (or worse still in my opinion, extend its mandate to genetic resources), we need something fresh that enshrines transparency, public engagement, and independence in decision-making, informed by the best research. The Global Ocean Commission perhaps has potential in that area.”

“Even if all the sectoral organisations were functioning efficiently, they still would not be able to provide a systematic approach to conservation that is needed for the largest biome on Earth. Global and regional cooperation and coordination are needed. This is very difficult to achieve when sectoral organisations have no duty or obligation to take on board biodiversity considerations and no accountability for poor or non-performance. Legally binding shared principles, common goals, improved transparency and global level accountability can keep the momentum for progress going forward into the future far better than guidelines and market forces where efforts lag when attention wanes.”

“Even a change under UNCLOS will not provide enforcement: that is what should be addressed first, before more verbiage is put out. New use of technologies for enforcement is critical otherwise there will be no ‘Protection’ of ‘Protected’ areas: we already see this.”

“The burden to prove”no impact" or “no significant impact” should be with the party that wishes to utilise/sample the sea floor, not with the authorities - as I believe it is under the current UNCLOS and ISA wording.”

“Everything required for sufficient environmental protection exists within UN CBD principles; guidelines could be derived from that specific for this sector, for every nation that has signed UN CBD to adhere to, and then activity driven by market forces within that framework. However, regional-scale management of specific insular habitats (i.e. MPA network for particular insular habitats, to ensure viable metapopulations of their endemic species within a region) will be required, and an oversight organisation would be needed to administer that.”

In connection with access to marine genetic resources in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction most participants agree, however, that any access regulations should not be such that there is a negative impact on research and development (54% n=7 agree, 38% n=5 neither agree nor disagree, 8% n=1 disagree). The monitoring of access and activity by researchers is considered sufficient under present protocols whereby national agencies, which dominate research, keep records. Some participants believe that the tagging of materials thus acquired and which are subsequently used for bio-discovery would be a sufficient addition to present practices (54% n=7 agree, 31% n=4 neither agree nor disagree). There is no clear consensus as to the ease of monitoring whether the location of samples obtained was within or beyond EEZs (54% n=7 agree that it would prove difficult, 31% n=4 disagree). The quotes below reflect a range of views on this subject.

“Yes, it should be monitored, but this is already done as most collections are carried out by large national agencies which record cruises and sampling online. Therefore, samples that are intended to be used for Marine Biodiscovery can be recorded as such. Others which are collected for other purposes, but are subsequently used for Biodiscovery should be tagged as such in the database. I think a simple addition to current self regulation is sufficient.”

“I think it would be difficult to monitor and verify whether samples were collected inside or outside national jurisdiction. We have enough problems on land with”blood diamonds" and ivory - the oceans are vast and empty. The issue of removing artifacts from the Titanic are an example. How are professional salvagers “treasure hunters” regulated?”

“Data is the valuable resource not biota samples. Do people really want to regulate data? How would they do that?”

“Placing monitoring requirements on oceanography vessels that collect in ABNJs should not be too onerous. Self regulation should work in this instance, given workable guidelines.”

Similarly, there are mixed views on the position that sufficient environmental protection already exists within the UN CBD principles, and that within that framework market forces could be allowed to dictate activity but with the addition of protection for marine protected areas (48% n=12 agree, 48% n=14 neither agree nor disagree, 10%, n=3 disagree).

“UN CBD principles may and should be envisaged like a starting point but this does not mean that these principles do not require regular updates.”

“It is true that what is in UN CBD is adequate, but the problem is and will continue to be enforcement. The International Seabed Authority depends on industry for its budget and so is clearly not going to get the monitoring job done. The authority for high seas monitoring will require a specific non-national organisation.”

“ABNJ is no longer [solely] at UNCLOS but is subject to CBD as well. Both UN organisations need to collaborate or mainstream their efforts in the safeguarding of the ABNJ.”

“There are other reasons for a new agreement under UNCLOS, such as certainty, levelling the playing field so that responsible players do not lose out to unscrupulous operators, and to promote the orderly development of new activities, avoid conflicting uses and prevent duplication of effort.”

There is some disagreement about the management of marine genetic resources, particularly whether it is possible to make policy decisions based on inadequate data on the extent of biodiversity. 52% (n= 15) feel that it is not possible, while 41% (n=12) believe that a lack of current knowledge should not stand in the way of precautionary policy. Some respondents, however, argue that there is no need for access regulation, suggesting that the debate is based on speculation rather than evidence (31% n=4 agree, 31% n=4 neither agree nor disagree, 38% N=5 disagree).

“I think we can follow the precautionary principle and insist that impact assessments, where biodiversity is measured, precede activities.”

“Policy decisions can be made now that can evolve as additional information becomes available. There is much to be gained by creating a regular forum for governments and others to meet and discuss the evolving science, technology and health of the ocean in ABNJ. A conference of Parties to a new agreement would be one way to create such a forum. To say we need complete baseline information is just to use lack of certainty as an excuse for inaction.”

Benefit Sharing

Discussions on benefit-sharing among participants were closely linked with capacity building and technology transfer. We focus first on benefit-sharing with more detailed discussion of capacity building and technology transfer below.

There is universal agreement that more infrastructure and access to financial resources are needed to enable training and research exchanges between developing and developed countries (100% n=13). There is also a high level of agreement that there is scope for improved coordination of research cruises to provide and share knowledge of biodiversity and training similar to that suggested by the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol (92% n=12).

“Coordination of research cruises so that adequate coverage is made of biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdictions. Development of simpler, cheaper and more rapid sampling devices. Training aspects similar to that suggested in the CBD/Nagoya Protocol.”

“…the political debate should not focus only on monetary benefit sharing but also on non-monetary ones, the ones that can really bridge the gaps between the capabilities of countries in undertaking research and profit from them.”

“…another aspect to consider is the disparities in scientific capabilities among countries.”

“There are opportunities for a more collaborative effort to collect samples which should be explored and encouraged. I am sure most researchers would be willing to help each other out if there was a centralised repository of exploration needs/gaps.”

“The scientific community seems to be more collaboratively inclined with cruise time and resource sharing, so perhaps collections and access to them will actually increase.”

It is agreed that benefits derived from marine genetic resources should be equitably shared, with an emphasis on ensuring these resources are obtained in a sustainable way, and that limited commercial interests are not permitted to take ownership of marine genetic resources (86% n=24). The cost of drugs raises issues about benefit sharing with suggestions of not-for-profit drug distribution to poorer nations and government funding for product development (48% n=14 agree, 48% n=14 neither agree nor disagree). Less certainty is expressed about the notion of a royalty paid from profits from marine genetic resources derived products going towards maintaining collections, monitoring and research (38% n=5 agree, 46% n=6 neither agree nor disagree, 15% n=2 disagree). Participants did not agree with the argument expressed by one participant that a tax on commercially successful pharmaceuticals paid to poorer nations would kill innovation and product development, due to the enormous costs of developing products which do not reach the market (14% n=4 agree, 31% n=9 neither agree nor disagree, 55% n=16 disagree).

“To”tax" any successful natural products resulting from marine genetic resources (i.e. insisting on payment via UNCLOS, to then be distributed to developing nations etc. under similar arrangements to those for seafloor mining via the ISA, for example) would probably kill activity in this area; there are plenty of other sources of possible natural products other than the deep ocean.”

“I have worked for a large US pharmaceutical company, and despite the costs of this research, I am sure the potential rewards would encourage investment, even with some sort of levy (at a reasonable rate).”

“I think the financial payments currently collected by the ISA are modest in comparison to the potential billion dollar gains in the mining industry. I’m not sure if it’s a fair comparison with MGR extraction however, I have a feeling that it would be; pharmaceutical companies make large profits after all.”

“Even assuming there is a lack of substantial financial return now, it would seem to be better to discuss this topic sooner rather than later when stakes would be greater. At this point, no one would want to hamper commercial research or development but would prefer to facilitate it, if there is some expectation of a fair return to both the developer and the international community. Industry itself may prefer certainty rather than the potential for future regulation.”

“Benefit sharing arrangements have not killed interest in deep seabed mining - indeed a US company Lockheed Martin is now operating through the UK for access to mineral resources in the Area. A properly designed benefit-sharing scheme could facilitate access to samples, stimulate collaborative research and provide real non-monetary benefits, in addition to allocating some yet to be specified percentage of a possible future revenue stream. There is a precedent in UNCLOS already for sharing revenue from oil and gas exploitation beyond the continental shelf. A similar formula could be developed for MGR that is considered fair from all sides.”

“We accept that market forces deliver economic benefits to wider society in our national government; that principle is also worth considering at international scale. In response to the argument: what about nations that do not have a deep-sea capacity, in terms of their share? I would say: here is an incentive to develop technologically in the long term, if you want those rewards. Hand-outs (e.g. as administered for seafloor mining via the ISA) perhaps have a parallel to domestic benefit-dependency, rather than stimulating aspiration.”

The view that market forces should be accepted as the driving force to provide benefits and that those benefits should provide incentives to countries to develop deep-sea capabilities in order to share the benefits did not generate significant support (8% n=1 agree, 54% n=7 neither agree nor disagree, 38% n=5 disagree). With respect to how benefit-sharing from marine genetic resources might be generated one participant suggested:

“In a way similar to the way plant crops are used. In this case if a signatory to the crop plant treaty makes an improved crop plant and commercialises this, a royalty is paid into a central fund which is used for maintaining the collections, monitoring and research.”

38% n=5 of participants agreed with this suggestion with 46% n=6 neither agreeing nor disagreeing and 15% n=2, disagreeing. This could suggest the need for further discussion on possible options for benefit-sharing, including discussion of experiences with existing models.

Issues surrounding intellectual property rights (IP) generated a range of views. The investments made in developing a product from marine resources are seen as a legitimate reason for pursuing IP, however perceived pressure to pursue these rights is seen as having a negative effect on deep-sea research due to the pressure to show value (77% n=10 agree, 23% n=3 neither agree nor disagree, 0 disagree). In principle it is felt that samples should be made freely available (77% n=10 agree, 23% n=3 neither agree nor disagree, 0 disagree). An additional perspective is that research scientists and their funding bodies should have primary rights to intellectual property but that the time period for ownership of basic knowledge should be limited and normalized around the world (69% n=9 agree, 15% n=2 neither agree nor disagree, 15% n=2 disagree). Most participants agreed that the monitoring of collections is already in place, and this should be strengthened with infrastructure to ensure that the origin of samples remains clear for end users (77% n=10 agree, 23% n=3 neither agree nor disagree, 0 disagree).

“I think the cost of development of a product (as opposed to just seeking protection based on perceived value) is significant and thus Intellectual Property Rights in those instances is justified. I think there is a big difference between something being patented and actually making money. The cost of deep-sea research is considerable and researchers are increasingly under pressure to show value so it does not surprise me at the level of IPR protection being sought. If academic research must demonstrate added value then IP protection is going to become an increasing issue. In principle, samples should be made available freely and there are already significant quantities of freely available genetic information in the databases. The clever bit is identifying what is valuable and turning it into a product.”

“Scientists conducting the research have the primary right to intellectual property, along with the entity that funded the research. The policies of those entities should be normalized around the world to limit the time period over which such basic knowledge can be kept proprietary. Commercial applications should be covered by the same international law system that covers other commercial activities.”

“All intellectual property should remain in the public domain where it pertains to natural environmental processes. Synthesized outputs should remain the IP of the research consortium producing/funding them.”

“I do not consider that ‘genes’ should be patentable.” “The open oceans are the commons and should be used for the benefit of all mankind.”

“Any future legal regime must be consistent with intellectual property rights otherwise there will be no commercial incentive for investment in R&D.”

“Whoever invests in their development has the right to profit from them.”

“[Common Heritage of Mankind] CHM discussions are quite necessary since they prevent the obstruction of scientific progress by those withholding IP on commercial grounds.”

“It is essential that a regime is put in place that ensures marine genetic resources are not grabbed by a few in a gold rush to patent life and privatise their ownership. Having clear international rules that set out how species and habitats must be protected and how the benefits must be shared will not only benefit developing countries that do not have the technology or resources to explore such potential discoveries, but will also protect the companies involved by providing a stable framework within which they can develop the future of their businesses.”

“I suspect there needs to be some balance and intelligent recognition of (a) when the intrinsic knowledge has a commercial value so needs reasonable protection and (b) that the protection has a reasonable relationship to the costs of getting it in the first place and then using it later on.”

Capacity Building and Technology Transfer

In summarising responses on capacity-building and technology transfer we also draw in responses relating to the practical issues involving access to genetic resources from Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction. Here we focus on presenting a selection of quotes that relate to technology related issues involving research in the deep-sea. In conjunction with the points raised above on benefit-sharing and future research priorities (below) these suggestions form potential building blocks for a longer term approach to capacity building and technology transfer for further discussion.

“It is not only technological advance in accessing the deep sea, but it is also the technology advancing that allows scientists to use DNA extraction and duplicate it, or to use genomics, that made it easier to work on MGR.”

“The scientific community seems to be more collaboratively inclined with cruise time and resource sharing, so perhaps collections and access to them will actually increase.”

“The future is sampling principally by unmanned vessels, not ships.”

“Routine operations in the deep (<1000 m) sea have improved only in the increased availability of tethered or autonomous vehicles. Navigation is still challenging. And there are many instances of instrument and vehicle failure. My impression is that academia still has more experience operating in the deep sea than commercial interests.”

“We are severely limited in the access we have to the deep seas. The further development of observatories with a suite of biological and genomic sensors is sorely needed.”

“There are opportunities for a more collaborative effort to collect samples which should be explored and encouraged. I am sure most researchers would be willing to help each other out if there was a centralised repository of exploration needs/gaps.”

“Deep-sea research requires national-level facilities (e.g. research ships and deep-water vehicle), so this is the level required for targeted action, e.g. national research programmes focused on this issue.”

“Improvements in human-directed vehicles, however, do not just include the capabilities of the vehicles themselves (i.e. depth capability, samplers that maintain in situ environmental conditions, imaging technologies etc), but in telecoms capabilities that enable researchers ashore to direct their operations, rather than just a small research team aboard their mother ship.”

“This requires a long-term plan for investment in large-scale facilities (i.e. ships and deep-sea vehicles), which have finite lifespans in use (and development of versions with better capabilities). Instead of chasing money from government every few years in fire-fighting fashion, there should be an agreed long-term strategy for this area.”

“The development of pressure-resistant corrosion resistant materials especially if very deep sea hydrothermal vents are investigated where pressure, temperature and pH all potentially come into play.”

“There have been numerous advances in Autonomous Underwater Vehicles which do not require constant human directed presence. AUVs can collect photographic, video, oceanographic, and geological samples along pre-determined survey lines, all of which lead to greater understanding of the ecology of the deep ocean and allow a more targeted (and therefore more cost effective) human-directed follow up surveys/sampling.”

“Some kinds of questions need a lot of detailed measurements over a large area – the AUVs can or will be able to do this. Other questions need immediate decision making during the measurement or sampling process – then you need a human in the loop so a ROV or HOV is necessary.”

Monitoring and Indicators

Monitoring activity is seen as problematic due to the vast size of the oceans and because only established shipping lanes have any monitoring presence (86% n=25 agree, 3% n=1 neither agree nor disagree, 10% n=3 disagree). Some respondents refer to the need for intensive monitoring regimes such as satellite technology to monitor ship movements and the need for ports to investigate suspect ships. Other participants believe there is little need for such intensive monitoring infrastructure. A majority agree that monitoring will create major difficulties (55% n=16 agree, 31% n=9 neither agree nor disagree, 14% n=4 disagree).

“…websites now report on transects of boats, a lot of blogs or even facebook pages are associated to scientific cruises, publicly available data on the name of cruises and site they visited are even possible to access through institutional websites.”

“It is already possible to trace the origin of MGRs used for patent applications, it is just really difficult. Databases are being maintained by the UN University. If patent applications were required to disclose origin of the material, then it would not be so difficult to monitor the origin. Could also require self-reporting by scientists and companies as part of their EIA applications and reporting to national authorities. Don’t really need expensive at sea monitoring or port state control for bioprospecting alone, but do need improved at sea monitoring and port state controls for fisheries management and conservation.”

“…although we are focused on using unmanned aircraft and autonomous surface vessels, there is also an important component for new non-governmental satellite technologies. The idea is indeed to deal with violators ‘at the dock’ as it is cost-prohibitive to board them at sea for the most part.”

“It would be helpful to ensure that we have an overview of activities taking place but EIA requirements, sample collections and benefit sharing mechanisms can also help to gain that overview while enhancing sustainability.”

“It is a question of motivation. How many vessels are equipped to do this work, and how many would intentionally misreport their sampling locations and amounts? Placing trust in cruise leaders to report findings accurately should be possible to maintain a low impact, but effective monitoring system.”

“It will only be possible to ensure that bioprospecting is sustainable if we first have an overview of activities taking place, and one that it is based on sound internationally accepted governance and conservation mechanisms.”

“I do not see how additional regulation could be effectively monitored in the deep sea without using satellite technology to monitor ship movements but then any follow-up would only work if the next port-of-call had signed-up to investigating a ship identified as suspect and the ship did not off-load the samples before entering the port.”

Research Priorities

Participants consider the priority for research to be improving our basic knowledge:

“…the majority of major advances in our understanding of deep sea ecology have come from ‘exploration’ rather than targeted studies (which largely confirm what we already know). In the deep ocean, what we don’t know is still of major significance.”

This exploration effort is regarded as the current main research priority by a significant number of participants (85% n=11). There is also agreement that research effort should be focused on understanding the deep-sea ecosystem and habitat dynamics in areas where human activity is anticipated (92% n=12). There is a strong positive view that investment in technologies such as deep-sea submersibles is essential and that video and sonar equipment is vital for understanding the ecology of larger organisms (93% n=27). The development of human directed vehicles (whether remote or manned) is seen as essential (90% n=26) and autonomous underwater vehicles should not be seen as an alternative due to their different capabilities (69% n=9 agree, 23% n=3 neither agree nor disagree, 8% n=1 disagree). A suggestion that without new ships for sampling there will be no increase in the scale of collection met with limited agreement (31% n=9 agree, 31% n=9 neither agree nor disagree, 38% n=11 disagree). This is perhaps because there is now increased interest in long term in-situ studies and more emphasis on cooperative research meaning that what is needed is not more ships but more efficient use of ships.

“…coordination of research cruises is a weak link in all deep sea research. It is very easy to show up at a site and find someone else there or to accidentally disturb a sensor or experiment in progress.”

Looking ahead, most respondents expect the focus over the next 10 years to be on microbial culture and genomic analysis to discover whether marine genetic resources represent genuine novelty or simply variations on a theme (62% n=8 agree, 31% n=4 neither agree nor disagree, 8% n=1 disagree). Over the next 20 years the research priorities are seen as less clear with the study of new organisms with new bioactive properties being considered a focus (54% n=7 agree, 31% n=4 neither agree nor disagree, 15% n=2 disagree).

“Yes, training, research exchanges and participation of researchers from either developed or developing countries are all good ideas, such as required courses in ethics and international law. Frankly, we need far more infrastructure and access to financial resources if we hope to ever properly survey the oceans for a remotely accurate census of life.”

“Coordination of research cruises so that adequate coverage is made of biodiversity in ABNJs. Development of simpler, cheaper and more rapid sampling devices. Training aspects similar to that suggested in the CBD/Nagoya Protocol.”

“There are opportunities for a more collaborative effort to collect samples which should be explored and encouraged. I am sure most researchers would be willing to help each other out if there was a centralised repository of exploration needs/gaps.”

Looking even further ahead, participants found it difficult to predict what might be the focus of marine research thirty years from now. One participant suggested that “…in 30 years “the ‘game’ may have changed so much that bioprospecting for novelty in the marine environment may not be as big an issue” while another participant emphasised that “…fast moving developments in synthetic biology may make sampling from the wild redundant in future.”

7.0.4 Conclusions

This chapter has presented the results of a multi-round expert Delphi study focusing on questions about access and benefit-sharing and wider issues involving a potential implementing agreement within the framework of UNCLOS. Delphi studies are typically directed towards the achievement of a consensus view among experts on a future oriented topic. In the context of the present research we have deferred the pursuit of a final consensus scenario or set of scenarios in favour of mapping out areas of broad agreement, disagreement and the range of views expressed by experts.

However, in the course of the Delphi study we repeatedly asked the experts the question “what would you say to a policy audience?” on the conservation, sustainable use and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilisation of marine genetic resources. Twenty-seven (93%) of our experts in the final round of the Delphi study agreed with the following statement proposed by a participant while only two (7%) disagreed:

“Current rules and regulations covering the high seas are simply inadequate to address these questions and to ensure that marine life and the precious genetic resources that they contain are preserved for future generations, including through establishing sanctuaries at sea. Therefore a new agreement is needed under the UN Convention on Law of the Sea to protect ocean life found both in high seas waters and the seabed in areas that are beyond the jurisdiction of any one country, as well as ensure the access and equitable sharing of benefits of marine genetic resources.”

As such, there is a clear view among the participating experts that a new agreement is needed within the framework of UNCLOS. As can be seen in the range of responses from experts, while there is broad agreement there are also a range of proposals on how this might best be achieved and its possible elements.

In connection with access and benefit-sharing in particular, experts expressed limited concern about the environmental impacts of biological prospecting compared with other human interventions while noting the need for care to ensure environmental damage was not caused by research activities. Experts also considered it likely that the majority of existing bioprospecting activity takes place in areas inside national jurisdictions while calling for further baseline data to improve the evidence base about these types of activity. Above all, we take seriously the proposal that there should be measures on access and benefit-sharing. However, we note that these are essentially anticipatory and could be allowed to evolve over time in response to emerging developments in the context of improved baseline information and monitoring of activity in cooperation with the marine research community.

We therefore conclude that issues involving access to genetic resources can appropriately be addressed by working with existing practices among research teams. In our view the main focus of attention should be benefit-sharing in the context of a longer term and strategic approach directed towards expanding human knowledge and understanding of the diversity of the life in the deep-sea and promoting its conservation and sustainable use in all our interests.