• The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is a Kingston, Jamaica-based intergovernmental body of 167 member states and the European Union established under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its 1994 Agreement on Implementation.
  • The ISA’s dual mission is to authorize and control development of mineral related operations in the international seabed considered the “common heritage of all mankind” and also protect the ecosystem of the seabed, ocean floor and subsoil in “The Area” beyond national jurisdiction.
  • The ISA is to safeguard the international deep sea, the waters below 200 meters or 656 feet, where photosynthesis is hampered by inadequate light.
  • Governing approximately half of the total area of the world’s oceans, the ISA is to exercise oversight of activities that might threaten biological diversity and harm the marine environment.
  • The Authority operates as an autonomous international organization with its own Assembly, Council and Secretariat.
    • Headquarters: Kingston, Jamaica
  • The Authority obtained its observer status to the United Nations in October 1996.

Governing bodies of ISA

  • The International Seabed Authority (ISA) has 167 members and the European Union, composed of all parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is controlled and governed by the following bodies:
    • Assembly of International Seabed Authority: The supreme authority of ISA is the assembly consisting of all ISA members. This assembly is responsible for establishing general policies and budgets.
    • Executive Authority: ISA also elects the executive authority of ISA which is a 36-member council and is responsible for approving contracts with private corporations and government entities. These contracts deal with the exploration and mining in the specified areas of the international seabed.
    • Secretary-General: The secretary-general of the ISA is nominated by the council and is elected by the assembly to a four-year term. Michael W. Lodge is the current secretary-general of International Seabed Authority (ISA).
  • The Finance Committee deals with budget-related matters. There is also a Legal and Technical Commission consisting of 30 members who control the Council and Finance Committee. All members are experts nominated by governments and elected to serve in their individual capacity.

International Seabed Authority (ISA) Functions

  • ISA focuses mainly on organising, regulating and controlling all the mineral-related activities in the international seabed area that are beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
  • Some of the major functions of the International Seabed Authority of India (ISA) are mentioned below:
    • Regulation of deep seabed mining.
    • Protection of the marine environment from the harmful effects of mining, exploration and exploitation.
    • The authority also promotes marine scientific research and conducts training programmes, seminars, conferences and workshops on the scientific and technical aspects.

India as a Member of ISA

  • India actively participates in the work of the International Seabed Authority.
  • India was re-elected as a member of ISA the previous year.
    • France has recently become a member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association on 18th December 2020.

Activities of ISA

  • The main activity of ISA is to regulate the exploration of poly-metallic nodules.
    • The legislation regarding the same was passed in the year 2000.
  • These nodules contain various amounts of manganese, cobalt, copper and nickel. The nodule is spread between the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean.
    • They occur as potato-sized lumps scattered about on the surface of the ocean floor, mainly in the central Pacific Ocean but with some deposits in the Indian Ocean.
  • Work began on another set of regulations in 2002,  that covered exploration of polymetallic sulfides and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, which are rich sources of such minerals as copper, iron, zinc, silver and gold, as well as cobalt. The sulphides are found around volcanic hot springs, especially in the western Pacific Ocean, while the crusts occur on oceanic ridges and elsewhere at several locations around the world.
  • The ISA decided in 2006 to prepare separate sets of regulations for sulphides and for crusts, with priority given to sulphides. It devoted most of its sessions in 2007 and 2008 to this task, despite several issues remaining unresolved. Chief among these were the definition and configuration of the area to be allocated to contractors for exploration, the fees to be paid to the Authority and the question of how to deal with any overlapping claims that might arise. Meanwhile, the Legal and Technical Commission reported progress on ferromanganese crusts.

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