Marine sediment extraction in the North Atlantic, including the Baltic and North seas, has shown a spectacular increase from a few hundred thousand m³ per year in the early 1970s to millions in the 1990s and hundreds of millions m³ in recent years.
In the strict sense, marine mineral extraction is not sustainable as the extracted minerals are lost for the marine system. Extraction of marine sediments can also cause negative effects on the marine environment. Accompanied processes, such as the removal of sediments including benthic fauna, introduce a sand blanket in the vicinity of the extraction and high concentrations of suspended matter in the surrounding area, as well as increase the level of underwater sound.
Nevertheless, the mineral extraction process can be sustainable in the sense that negative effects on the ecosystem are minimized by mitigation measures that are beneficial for the recolonization of the benthic fauna and recovery is achieved within an acceptable period of time.
To ensure the goals of mitigation are reached, extensive monitoring programmes are executed on suspended matter, recolonization, underwater noise, effects on other uses of the sea, and coastal defence amongst others.
The aim of this session is to discuss how marine sediment extraction can become a more sustainable activity with minimal, and preferably temporal, effects on the ecosystem in line with the MSFD. Connected to this goal is the actualization of the ICES Guidelines on the extraction of marine sediments which will provide better advice to policy and legislation authorities and a code of practice for the industry.
In this session, the following topics will be addressed: