World Ocean Review 3, Marine Resources – Opportunities and Risks

World Ocean Review(WOR) (2014)

am delighted to present the third volume in the series. In this World Ocean Review (WOR 3), we focus on marine resources and the opportunities and risks associated with their potential exploitation. Two salient facts merit particular attention. Firstly, very little is known at present about the resources found in the world’s oceans, and their exploration and especially their production pose immense technical challenges. And secondly, there is insufficient public awareness and debate about these resources and their utilization. Oil, gas, minerals and methane hydrates lie in the lightless depths of the oceans, and their extraction is hidden from sight. Even the products manufactured from them are not always obvious or tangible in our daily lives. This contrasts sharply with the large body of information available about the world’s fish stocks and the fishing industry, and the public’s justified interest in this topic. Obtaining food from the sea is fundamental to our lives and has formed part of our consciousness for thousands of years. In that sense, raising people’s awareness of the problems associated with fishing is a relatively simple task. Indeed, politicians are now responding to growing public pressure – partly created by publications such as WOR 2 – and are turning their attention to more sustainable fishing in the hope that the extinction of numerous species of fish can still be averted. But there is still a long way to go before we achieve a similar level of knowledge and public awareness of marine resources. In my view, it is crucial to launch a debate about the use of these non-living marine resources – for without our natural collective interest in these diverse problems, we cannot exert the pressure that is needed to ensure that marine resources are extracted and utilized in a sustainable manner. In this volume, you will find information about the formation, exploration and production of marine resources: not only oil and gas but also ores, in the form of manganese nodules, cobalt crusts and massive sulphides. A separate chapter is devoted to methane hydrates. The extraction of all these resources poses major technical challenges and is a highly contentious issue due to the environmental risks involved. It could also become the basis for a powerful economic sector with the prospect of extremely high returns and significant political ramifications. Yet if such large-scale business is hidden from view, this not only poses a threat to the environment: it also jeopardizes fundamental human rights and social justice. The multinationals in particular, such as Shell, ExxonMobil and Total, which have been producing oil in West Africa for years, saw no need to protect the natural environment or to ensure equitable sharing of benefits from oil revenue in the past. There are very significant opportunities but also risks for the future in and on the seabed. I hope that WOR 3 will give you all the facts you need.