Over 5,000 new species of aquatic life have been discovered in a remote area of the Pacific Ocean — but the region is likely to be heavily impacted by deep-sea mining.
Scientists recently explored the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), a large area of the ocean floor of the Pacific that stretches about 1.7 million square miles between Mexico and Hawaii, according to The Guardian.
The researchers recorded findings from multiple expeditions and concluded that the CCZ is home to over 5,500 different species, the vast majority of which (88 to 92%) have never been discovered before.
The CCZ is also incredibly rich in valuable minerals like nickel, cobalt, and manganese, which means it’s highly desirable as a drilling location for mining companies. Seventeen companies based in the U.S., China, the UK, and other countries have been granted contracts to begin mining exploration in the area, The Guardian reported.
Deep-sea mining can have negative effects on natural life underwater, as the mining process can compact the sea floor, create harmful sediment plumes, and destroy organisms, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Guardian reported that some scientists, like Sir David Attenborough, have called for a halt to deep-sea mining because of its environmental impact.
However, these new species are being discovered and studied in part because of the area’s mining potential. Research missions are being backed by companies like UK Seabed Resources in order to evaluate the CCZ to minimize any damage that may be caused by the mining process.
Dr. Adrian Glover, a senior author of the study, sees the growing concern for the CCZ’s wildlife as reassuring.
“In some ways I see it as very positive that we can come up with a regulatory structure before mining takes place,” he told The Guardian. “[In] other large industries, such as oil and gas, the regulations came later.”
“We share this planet with all this amazing biodiversity and we have a responsibility to understand it and protect it,” Muriel Rabone, the lead author of the paper, said, according to The Guardian.
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