Document Type

Journal Article


As scientific knowledge of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction increases and developments in oceans technology permit greater access to the high seas water column and the deep seabed, new and more intensive uses of these areas bring consequential impacts on the marine environment. The discovery of hydrothermal vents in 1977 revealed communities of organisms with unique genetic and biochemical properties and a seemingly limitless catalogue of medical, pharmaceutical, and industrial applications. Similar repositories of genetic and biochemical resources have been discovered in other deep-sea environments such as cold water seeps; it is expected that sediment communities of the deep seabed will eventually reveal comparable but more sparsely distributed diversity. These resources are already being sampled for scientific research and commercial purposes by State-sponsored scientific research bodies in conjunction with commercial enterprises.