Skip to main content

Region Summary: Americas

High-level findings on the deep-sea capacity of 55 geographical areas in the Americas, divided into four subregions: Northern America, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America.

Published onSep 12, 2022
Region Summary: Americas
·

This assessment includes information about the technical and human capacity of 55 geographical areas (GeoAreas) in the Americas, presented in four subregions: Northern America, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America (Figure 1) [1]. At the global level, we separated Northern America as its own region, but at this level, we present all of the Americas combined.

Figure 1

Americas Subregions
Map of the Americas showing the four subregions used in the 2022 Global Deep-Sea Capacity Assessment: Northern America, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. Light blue indicates the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Northern America; light green indicates the exclusive economic zones of Latin America & the Caribbean. [1][2][3][4]

While the Americas claim the second smallest total Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area of all regions and the second smallest overall deep-sea area (not including overseas territories claimed by GeoAreas in the Americas), 97% of the individual GeoAreas in the Americas have deep ocean greater than 200 m within their EEZ [2][3][4].

The United States of America, Chile, Canada, Brazil, and Mexico have the largest deep-ocean areas within their EEZs, but the opportunity for many more countries and territories in the Americas to participate in deep-ocean exploration is significant. 

This capacity assessment documents baseline information that can help identify potential gaps and opportunities for deep-sea research and exploration, especially in low and middle-income countries in this region. A more detailed report of deep-sea capacity in the Americas can be found in Region Results: Americas.

Status of Deep-Sea Exploration & Research

Survey respondents were asked to assess the status of deep-sea exploration and research in their GeoArea by stating to what extent they agreed with the following statements: (1) deep-sea exploration and research are considered important in their GeoArea, (2) they have in-country deep-sea technology, and (3) they have in-country deep-sea expertise. 

Northern America had a very high assessment of in-country tools and in-country expertise. On the other hand, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean all had a low assessment of consideration of importance, a very low assessment of in-country tools, and a low to moderate assessment of existing in-country expertise.

The combined results for this region exhibit the same bias many previous capacity assessments have due to the large number of respondents from the United States. For example, 56% of this region's overall respondents agreed that they had in-country deep-sea expertise, which skews high when examining the subregions individually. Even accounting for that bias, half of the respondents for the Americas disagreed that they had the in-country technology needed to conduct deep-sea exploration and research.

One interesting result worth further examination is the generally low perception that deep-sea research was considered important for this region. Overall, only 36% of respondents for all of the Americas agreed exploration and research was considered important in their GeoArea—the lowest in the world.

These respondent-assessed reports of in-country importance, technology, and expertise were used to evaluate respondents’ perceptions of the importance of and existence of in-country resources for deep-sea exploration and research at the subregional level (Table 1).

Table 1

Importance

Tech

Expertise

Subregions

High

High

High

Northern Europe, Western Europe, Eastern Asia

Low

High

High

Northern America, Australia & New Zealand

Low

Low

Mid

South America, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Western Asia, Northern Africa

High

Low

Mid

Southeastern Asia, Western Africa

High

Low

Low

Southern Asia, Eastern Africa, Melanesia, Micronesia

Low

Low

Low

Central America, Caribbean, Middle Africa, Southern Africa, Polynesia

"While ship time is important, the advances recently have been in autonomous robots and remote sensing technology. Those are truly transformative for those who can't take 2 weeks aboard a ship (like for women with child care responsibilities)." --Respondent for the United States of America, Northern America


Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities

Basic science & exploration, conservation & protection, and fisheries & aquaculture were the three most important deep-sea issues identified by respondents for the Americas. Funding, human capacity, and vessel access were identified as the Americas’ three most important challenges. The most exciting opportunities recorded by respondents were less expensive data collection technology, training opportunities, and better data tools.

"Our youth require transformative capacity development and technology transfer programs to be able to understand, maintain, [and] use diverse types of sensors. Simulation platforms to train in the lab and later at sea would be of great benefit." --Respondent for Mexico, Central America


Deep-Sea Capacity Presence, Accessibility, and Satisfaction

The next part of the assessment recorded the presence of marine infrastructure and deep-sea technology—vessels, deep submergence vehicles (DSVs), sensors, and data tools—based on extensive research, survey respondents’ access to each type of technology, and respondents’ satisfaction with the technology to which they have access

Organizations & Industries

Using manual research and survey data, we assessed marine organizations and industries as a proxy for human capacity1

Our research on organizations and industries focused on ocean-based institutions, such as universities, government agencies, and various marine industries. We identified 667 organizations in the Americas conducting work in the deep sea: 261 universities and research laboratories, 244 government agencies and ministries, and 162 other organizations. Northern America had the highest number of organizations per GeoArea, while the Caribbean had the lowest. 

The most common industries found in the Americas were marine transportation and fisheries & aquaculture, followed by tourism. Offshore oil & gas and deep-sea mining were the least common industries found. Only one GeoArea, the United States of America, had all types of industries. Five GeoAreas researched were prospecting for deep-sea mining. 

Vessels

Vessels were the technical capacity with the most extensive presence in the Americas, and GeoAreas in the Americas had a comparable presence of multiple vessel types to other regions of the world. Respondents' access to multiple types of vessels in the Americas was comparable to other regions worldwide. Satisfaction with vessels ranged from very low in South America to high in Northern America.

Fishing vessels were the most common type of vessel, followed by recreational vessels. Traditional vessels were the least common type of vessel found in the Americas. Seventy-six percent of respondents had access to at least one type of vessel. Eighty-nine percent of respondents in Northern America had access to research vessels, while only 34% in Latin America & the Caribbean had access to them. 

Respondents for Northern America were the most satisfied with vessel operation, while respondents for the Caribbean and South America were the least satisfied. Seventy percent of respondents for the Americas reported that increased access to vessels would have a high impact or would be transformative for their work. 

Deep Submergence Vehicles

The presence of, access to, and satisfaction with deep submergence vehicle (DSV) types in the Americas all shared the same trend: high in Northern America and low in all subregions of Latin America & the Caribbean.

In the Americas, ROVs were the most present type of DSV, followed by benthic landers and human-occupied vehicles (HOVs). Towsleds were the least common type of DSV found in the Americas. Two GeoAreas, Canada and the United States had all types of DSVs, and fifteen GeoAreas were found to have none. 

Half of the respondents for the Americas, the majority of whom were from Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, reported having no access to any DSVs. The Americas' most accessible types of DSVs were ROVs, benthic landers, and AUVs. 

The depth rating for DSVs was less of an issue in the Americas, with 83% of DSVs to which respondents had access being able to operate deeper than 200 m. However, respondents for Northern America had the most access to the deepest vehicles. We also noted that approximately ten benthic landers and ten other DSVs in the region were limited to shallow water operations. 

A vast majority of respondents for the Americas reported that increased access to DSVs would have a high impact or would be transformative for their work. Our research revealed that foreign capacities had provided about 15 DSVs of different types, allowing for deep water exploration in these GeoAreas. Still, these GeoAreas could not conduct this research themselves without the necessary technical capabilities. 

Sensors

Sensor presence in the Americas ranged from very low to very high, similar to most regions worldwide. Like most technical capabilities in the Americas, there was a wide distribution of access to sensor systems, with the most access in Northern America and the least in Latin America & the Caribbean.

Water sampling systems were the most present type of sensor, followed by navigation systems. eDNA systems were the least common type found in the Americas. The most accessible sensor systems in the Americas were CTDs and water sampling systems. More than one-third of the respondents for the Americas reported having no access to deep-sea sensor systems. 

Respondents for the Americas were split in opinion on the performance of deep-sea sensors in their GeoArea. Overall, they were satisfied with sensor system capabilities, cost, depth rating, and ease of use and dissatisfied with availability.

Data Tools

Like other technical capacities, Northern America has the highest presence of, access to, and satisfaction with data tools, while subregions of Latin America & the Caribbean have the lowest. 

Geographic information systems (GIS) were the most present type of data tool, followed by data management systems. Genomic sequencing tools were the least common type found in the Americas. The most accessible data tool in the Americas was GIS, followed by data storage capacity and data visualization tools. Only 15% of respondents for the Americas reported having no access to any of the listed data tools. 

Despite low rates of presence, access, and satisfaction in most of the region, 90% of respondents for the Americas reported data tools as important for their work. A similar percentage noted that increased access to data tools would significantly impact or transform their work. 

"Access to these robots or the high-powered computers necessary for analysis is typically much harder than vessel time." --Respondent for the United States of America, Northern America


Deep-Sea Capacity Indices

Organizations, industries, vessels, DSVs, sensors, and data tools were assessed using research to identify the presence of capacity in each GeoArea and survey responses to identify accessibility to and satisfaction of vessels, DSVs, sensors, and data tools in each subregion. We used this information to group subregions based on similarities concerning the presence of marine infrastructure and deep-sea technology, access to technology, and satisfaction with the technology available, allowing for comparison between locations on a subregional, regional, and global scale (Table 2).

Table 2

Presence

Access

Satisfaction

Subregions

Mid-high

High

High

Northern America, Northern Europe

Mid

Mid

Mid

Western Europe, Southern Europe, Eastern Asia, Southeastern Asia, Australia & New Zealand

Mid

Low-mid

Low-mid

South America, Eastern Europe, Western Asia, Southern Asia, Northern Africa, Southern Africa

Low

Low

Low-mid

Central America, Caribbean, Western Africa, Middle Africa, Eastern Africa, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia

Northern America had the highest combination of presence, accessibility to, and satisfaction with marine infrastructure and deep-sea technology, similar to Northern Europe. In contrast, Central America and the Caribbean had a low presence of and access to marine infrastructure and deep-sea technology and moderate to low satisfaction with deep-sea technology, similar to Western Africa and Polynesia. South America had a moderate to high presence of marine infrastructure and deep-sea technology but low to moderate access to and satisfaction with, similar to Western Asia and Eastern Europe. Regarding individual GeoAreas, Brazil, Canada, and the United States had the highest presence of deep-sea technology. In contrast, Dominica, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, and Sint Eustatius had the lowest.

"RESEARCHER PERSPECTIVE
""The exploration and research opportunities for the Americas are incredible. The Central America subregion is the least explored and offers excellent international collaboration and local research opportunities. The Middle America Trench also remains almost entirely unexplored and represents an ideal region for deep-sea discovery."" --Sergio Cambronero-Solano, National University of Costa Rica, Costa Rica"

Conclusion

In the Americas, there is a high disparity of technological deep-sea resources. Northern America has extensive deep-ocean exploration and research capacity, much of which is reasonably accessible to respondents. Latin America & the Caribbean has much lower deep-sea technology presence and access rates. However, as this report demonstrates, Latin America & the Caribbean has a well-developed human capacity with a high potential for leading innovation in deep-sea research that a more substantial research infrastructure could enhance. 

In this region, as in others, the highest technical capacity tended to be associated with higher-income countries (the USA and Canada). Lower-income nations in Central America have little research infrastructure but, in some cases, have developed advanced human capacity, enabled technologically through partnerships with foreign organizations and/or foreign investment. 

In general, the Latin America and Caribbean countries with the most capacity for deep-sea exploration and research are the ones that have drilled for oil and gas from the deep sea, such as Brazil and Mexico. Many countries with access to both Pacific and Atlantic/Caribbean waters focus on the Pacific coast for deep sea and marine development. In the case of Chile and Peru, research capacity has been developed around fisheries management and sovereignty studies in Antarctica. Other GeoAreas have partnered with the United States, Japan, Russia, and Germany to conduct observations of the seafloor, but no vehicles were found permanently present in these locations. 

Chile is leading innovation in South America with its lander/AUV, Audacia, and other countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay are developing DSV prototypes that are in the preliminary stages of entering the commercial phase. This innovation demonstrates the advanced human capacity present in the region for marine research, engineering, and development.

Connections
1 of 5
A Translation of this Pub
A Translation of this Pub
A Translation of this Pub
Comments
0
comment

No comments here

Why not start the discussion?