Scientists have discovered more than 5,000 new species living on the seabed in an untouched area of the Pacific Ocean that has been identified as a future hotspot for deep-sea mining, according to a review of the environmental surveys done in the area.
It is the first time the previously unknown biodiversity of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), a mineral-rich area of the ocean floor that spans 1.7m sq miles between Hawaii and Mexico in the Pacific, has been comprehensively documented. The research will be critical to assessing the risk of extinction of the species, given contracts for deep-sea mining in the near-pristine area appear imminent.
Most of the animals identified by researchers exploring the zone are new to science, and almost all are unique to the region: only six, including a carnivorous sponge and a sea cucumber, have been seen elsewhere.
Contracts for mining exploration in the CCZ have been granted to 17 deep-sea mining contractors in an area covering 745,000 sq miles. The companies, backed by countries including the UK, US and China, want to exploit minerals including cobalt, manganese and nickel, in part to sell to the alternative energy sector.