Publication Title

Georgetown International Environmental Law Review


Convention on Biological Diversity, deep sea thermal vents, outer continental shelf

Document Type



This article seeks to stimulate the nascent discussion on legal questions presented by access to, and use of, deep-sea hydrothermal vent sites and resources and to help guide ocean policy analysts in their efforts to formulate and implement appropriate conservation and management measures adapted to the unique multiple-use conflicts posed by the vent phenomena. The inquiry is timely and important for the vent communities, some of which are already showing signs of the human footprint—a footprint that may in the not too distant future include the tracks of submarine bulldozers as they set about the job of seabed mining.

The article begins with a brief description of the nature of the vents in Part II and their existing and expected uses in Part III. Part IV of the article then provides an overview of the components of the legal regime applicable to vents on the outer continental shelf or deep seabed, focusing primarily on the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC) and the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Parts V and VI focus on the legal issues that are likely to arise in the context of the seabed hydrothermal vents and their living and genetic resources under the LOSC and CBD respectively.

The article closes with some preliminary conclusions and an assessment of the implications of those conclusions for seabed vent conservation and management options.



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