Clarion-Clipperton Zone: Updates

The Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCFZ or CCZ), in the tropical Pacific Ocean, has been identified as a source of commercial polymetallic nodules. Currently 16, 15-year contract areas have been approved by the International Seabed Authority. The conclusion of contracts allow these contractors to explore specified parts of the deep oceans outside national jurisdiction. Under the Regulations, each contractor has the exclusive right to explore an initial area of up to 150,000 square kilometers. Over the first eight years of the contract, half of this area is to be relinquished. Prior to the commencement of its programme of activities under the contract, each contractor is also required to submit to the Secretary-General a contingency plan to respond effectively to incidents arising from its activities in the exploration area.

Recently, the results of the UK Seabed Resources Ltd benthic biological baseline surveys at their site UK-1 has been published. Using a Remotely Operated Vehicle and Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (as well as several other pieces of equipment), the megafauna within the UK Seabed Resources Ltd exploration contract area (UK-1) and at a site ~250 km east of the UK-1 area were surveyed, allowing us to make the first estimates of megafaunal morphospecies richness from the imagery collected. Here, we present an atlas of the abyssal annelid, arthropod, bryozoan, chordate, ctenophore and molluscan megafauna observed and collected during the ABYSSLINE cruises to the UK-1 polymetallic-nodule exploration contract area in the CCZ. There appear to be at least 55 distinct morphospecies (8 Annelida, 12 Arthropoda, 4 Bryozoa, 22 Chordata, 5 Ctenophora, and 4 Mollusca) identified mostly by morphology but also using molecular barcoding for a limited number of animals that were collected. This atlas will aid the synthesis of megafaunal presence/absence data collected by contractors, scientists and other stakeholders undertaking work in the CCZ, ultimately helping to decipher the biogeography of the megafauna in this threatened habitat. Full text is available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/28874906/#fft

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