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Hawaii's coral reefs


Hawai’i Passes State Law to Prevent Harmful Seabed Mining

Surfrider’s Hawai’i chapters helped pass legislation to prevent seabed mining in state waters, reflecting growing opposition to this damaging industry.

On July 9, Governor Josh Green signed the Hawai’i Seabed Mining Prevention Act (SB 2575) into law, following the bill’s successful passage in the Hawaii Senate and Assembly. The new law prohibits the mining, extraction, and removal of minerals from the seabed in Hawai‘i’s marine waters while allowing exceptions for beach replenishment and scientific research – aligning with precautionary principles and protecting Native Hawaiian rights. Surfrider’s Hawai’i chapters supported the bill through public education and grassroots advocacy.

While the ban only covers waters out to three miles from shore from Hawaiʻi, it reflects a growing opposition to deep-sea mining across the globe. Industry interest in seabed mining is exploding, but government oversight in international waters remains severely lacking. The United Nations has designated the International Seabed Authority to govern activities, but they have limited authority and have yet to establish regulations or a scientific review process. The passage of the Hawaii bill is indicative of increasing pushback from U.S. states, countries, Indigenous peoples, and the public to seabed mining proposals in the world’s ocean.

"The Surfrider Foundation is grateful to see our Hawai'i state legislators step up and support the critical work needed to protect our deep-sea ecosystems. Senate Bill 2575 will provide crucial protection for Hawaii's marine environment, fisheries, and tourism-related economy. The bill also sends a powerful global message about the importance of preventing the destructive practice of seabed mining," said Lauren Blickley, Surfrider's Hawaiʻi Regional Manager.

Seabed mineral extraction, or seabed mining as it's more commonly known, involves industrial-scale prospecting for metals and other minerals along the ocean floor. Such activity can damage marine habitats that nurture commercially and recreationally important fish, and numerous other species. Seabed mining can also create sediment clouds in the water column that smother or negatively impact the feeding and reproduction of marine life, including plankton, groundfish, and forage fish. These sediment clouds and the associated noise of seabed mining can also harm whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals.

Our seabed and deep ocean are the last unexplored regions of our world, yet what we do know of them is that they are among our most intricate and fragile. Some of the oldest living coral species are found in the deep sea, and around one million marine species may inhabit the deep sea, a massive and interrelated complex of biodiversity seen nowhere else on the planet. In addition, the deep ocean is one of our planet’s largest and most important stores of carbon and likely plays a critical role in the fight against climate change.

Surfrider is proud of our work at the state level to prevent harmful seabed mining. In addition to Hawaii, Surfrider has helped pass laws in Washington and California to ban seabed mining in state waters. The Hawaii victory is particularly notable as it shows the opposition of the U.S. state and Native Hawaiian community to seabed mining in the Pacific basin, which is the focus of enormous industry interest. The time has come for the U.S. government to take a leadership role on the global stage by pushing for a moratorium on seabed mining in international waters until a suitable regulatory framework is established.

To elevate U.S. engagement, Rep. Ed Case from Hawaii's 1st District has introduced two bills in Congress. The International Seabed Protection Act (H.R. 4536) would require the U.S. to oppose international seabed mining efforts until the President certifies that the ISA has adopted a suitable regulatory framework to guarantee protection for marine ecosystems and communities that rely on them. The American Seabed Protection Act (H.R. 4537) would prohibit mineral extraction within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) while directing federal agencies to assess how mining activities could affect ocean species, carbon sequestration, and communities that depend on the ocean.

Please join the Surfrider Foundation in urging our federal leaders to take action on the critical issue of seabed mining – the risks and uncertainties of industrial-scale mining of the world’s ocean demand that we take a precautionary approach to regulating this emerging industry. A growing global coalition supports a moratorium on deep sea mining until conditions preventing environmental damage, securing local stakeholder approvals, and ensuring good governance can be met. This opposition includes 25 countries, 750 marine science and policy experts, businesses and financial institutions, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), state lawmakers, indigenous groups, and the UN Human Rights commissioner.