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Region Summary: Asia

High-level findings on the deep-sea capacity of 33 geographical areas in Asia, divided into four subregions: Western Asia, Southern Asia, Eastern Asia, and Southeastern Asia.

Published onSep 12, 2022
Region Summary: Asia
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Stretching from Turkey to Japan, Asia has the second-largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the third-largest deep-sea area of all the regions assessed. 

The 2022 Global Deep-sea Capacity Assessment gathered both survey and/or research information for 33 geographical areas (GeoAreas), all sovereign countries, in four subregions: Western Asia, Southern Asia, Eastern Asia, and Southeastern Asia (Figure 1) . Thirty of these GeoAreas have deep ocean in their EEZs (deeper than 200 meters below sea level), with Indonesia, Japan, India, Philippines, and the Maldives having the largest deep-ocean areas within their EEZs [1][2][3]

Figure 1

Asia Subregions
Map of Asia showing the four subregions used in the 2022 Global Deep-Sea Capacity Assessment: Western Asia, Southern Asia, Eastern Asia, and Southeastern Asia. Central Asia is not included because it has no marine exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Light orange indicates the EEZs of Asia. [1][2][3][4]

Given its size and the geographic and economic diversity it encompasses, it is likely no surprise that survey feedback and research results throughout Asia varied greatly. This summary covers a holistic view of the region and a glance at findings from subregions within the area. A more detailed report of Asia’s subregions and their GeoAreas can be found in Region Results: Asia.

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. 

While 64% of respondents for Asia agreed that deep-sea exploration and research are important in their GeoArea, and 53% said there was in-country expertise, 48% said they did not have the in-country tools or technology to conduct this research. In every subregion of Asia, the in-country expertise rating was equal to or higher than the in-country tools and technology rating.

These respondent-assessed reports of in-country importance, technology, and expertise were also 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

Eastern Asia, Northern Europe, Western Europe

Low

High

High

Northern America, Australia & New Zealand

Low

Low

Mid

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

High

Low

Mid

Southeastern Asia, Western Africa

High

Low

Low

Southern Asia, Eastern Africa, Melanesia, Micronesia

Low

Low

Low

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

Eastern, Southeastern, and Southern Asia had a high agreement that deep-sea exploration and research was considered important in respondents’ GeoAreas, while respondents for Western Asia had a low agreement about importance. Respondents for Eastern Asia had a high agreement that they had in-country deep-sea technology, while respondents for all other subregions had a low agreement. In Eastern and Western Asia, respondents had high agreement that they had in-country expertise, while there was low agreement in Southern and Southeastern Asia.

"Due to international conflicts with other neighbor nations, water, territory, and island conflicts, reaching some areas will be difficult and sometimes dangerous. We have a glider, but since 4 years ago we have to try to use it here for research and we can't get the official permit to use it." --Respondent for Abu Dhabi, Western Asia


Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities

Survey results revealed that Asia's three most important issues were basic science & exploration, offshore oil & gas, and fisheries & aquaculture. The three most significant challenges were funding, access to vessels, and human capacity—a common theme among many surveyed regions.

These challenges, however, do not come without opportunity. Individuals surveyed in this region were most excited by less expensive data collection technology opportunities, training opportunities, and connecting with others. 

"Increased access should utilize primarily additional long-term funding for the maintenance and utilization of the state of the art in-country capabilities and designated technical teams." --Respondent for Israel, Western Asia

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. The organizational and industry capacity of Asia varied widely. In Asia, we recorded 150 research organizations, 131 governmental agencies, and 58 other organizations. Eastern Asia had the highest number of organizations per GeoArea, while Western Asia had the lowest. 

Marine transportation and fisheries & aquaculture were the most common industries found in Asia, present in all GeoAreas, followed by conservation & protection and marine construction. Respondents selected deep-sea mining as a present industry considerably more than the number of active deep-sea mining industries found through manual research for Asia. Only eight GeoAreas in this region were identified through research as developing deep-sea mining industries, whereas 15 respondents from across all of Asia selected it as a present industry in the survey.

Vessels

Vessels were the technical capacity with the most extensive presence in Asia, and GeoAreas in Asia had a higher presence of multiple vessel types compared to other regions of the world. Despite high vessel presence, respondents' access to multiple types of vessels in Asia was low relative to other types of deep-sea technology but comparable to other regions worldwide. Satisfaction with vessels ranged from very low in Western Asia to very high in Eastern Asia.

In Asia, 80% of those surveyed had access to at least one type of vessel, and 63% of respondents had access to research vessels. The vessels present in most GeoAreas of Asia included recreational, fishing, and navy vessels. Nine GeoAreas, situated across Asia, had all types of vessels. Three GeoAreas, Palestine, Georgia, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), reported only one or two types. 

Deep Submergence Vehicles

Deep submergence vehicles (DSVs) were the technical capacity with the least extensive presence in Asia compared to other types of deep-sea technology. However, Asia had more DSV types than most of Africa, Oceania, Latin America & the Caribbean. 

According to our research, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) were present in 21 of the 30 GeoAreas researched in Asia. Two GeoAreas, China and Japan, had all six types of researched DSVs, while no DSVs were found in Timor-Leste, Syria, Jordan, and Yemen. 

ROVs were also the most accessible DSVs to survey respondents for Asia, followed by Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and drifters. Thirty-nine percent of respondents for Asia reported having no access to any DSVs. 

Despite the abundance of vehicles present in Asia, the depth rating for these vehicles makes deep ocean exploration in the region difficult. Fifty-two percent of the reported depth ratings for vehicles to which respondents had access could only operate at depths less than 200 m. Respondents for Southern Asia reported no vehicles that could operate in water deeper than 200 m. Only one respondent in Western Asia reported having access to a vehicle that could operate deeper than 4,000 m. Overall, survey respondents across Asia were generally not satisfied with the DSVs to which they had access and were least satisfied with DSV cost and depth rating.

Sensors

While sensor systems had a limited presence in Asia, more types of sensors were found in Asia than the global average. CTDs were the most commonly found sensor type in most GeoAreas, followed by water sampling systems. Only five GeoAreas, distributed across Asia, had all types of sensor systems. In Yemen and Timor-Leste, our research revealed no sensors, and Syria, Palestine, and North Korea had only one type of sensor. 

The most accessible sensor systems in Asia were CTDs, followed by chemical sensors and water sampling systems. Eighty-nine percent of survey respondents reported having access to at least one type of deep-sea sensor. Satisfaction with sensor systems in Asia was mixed, with respondents for Eastern and Southeastern Asia highly satisfied with the sensors to which they have access while respondents for Western and Southern Asia were much less so.

Data Tools

Data analysis continues to be a critical need for deep ocean exploration, and Asia is no exception. Data tools were the technical capacity with the second highest diversity in Asia after vessels, and GeoAreas in Asia had a higher data tool presence compared to the global average.

Sixteen GeoAreas had all types of data tools included in our research. In Asia, ML/AI was the most present data tool, found in all 30 researched GeoAreas, followed by geographic information systems (GIS). The most accessible data tools in Asia were GIS, followed by data management tools and data storage capacity. Fourteen respondents for Asia reported having no access to any of the listed data tools or did not know what data tools were available. 

Ninety-two percent of respondents for Asia reported data tools were important to very important for their work, and 73% of respondents for Asia reported that increased access to data tools would be transformative for their work.

"Before the Gulf Wars we had good research vessel and technicians, it was bombed and sank during the war, since then we are struggling. Sometimes we hire fishing vessels but [they] are not safe, still fisheries department and researchers have no option but using them to do their research." --Respondent for Iraq, Western Asia


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 Europe, Northern America

Mid

Mid

Mid

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

Mid

Low-mid

Low-mid

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

Low

Low

Low-mid

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

Within Asia, Eastern and Southeastern Asia had the highest combination of presence, accessibility to, and satisfaction with marine infrastructure and deep-sea technology, similar to Western Europe and, Australia & New Zealand. In contrast, Western and Southern Asia had a moderate to high presence of marine infrastructure and deep-sea technology and moderate to low access to and satisfaction with deep-sea technology, similar to Northern Africa and South America. Of all the GeoAreas in Asia, Japan had the most in-country deep-sea technology while Timor-Leste, Palestine, and Syria had the least. 

"RESEARCHER PERSPECTIVE
""One of the challenges we faced conducting country-specific research in Asia was a lack of access to information from certain countries. Not all countries allow free access to their data and information, limiting the amount of information we could get for several countries with deep-sea environments. For example, data for North Korea was severely restricted and therefore results may not be indicative of reality."" --Titus Canete, Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute, Philippines"

Conclusion

The GeoAreas surveyed in Asia have many obstacles and challenges to deep ocean exploration. Certain GeoAreas, such as Palestine, have deep-sea environments; however, due to tensions with other countries, they cannot access these areas and are heavily limited in the amount of research ocean scientists can conduct. Additional limitations for several countries in Asia included the lack of technology to conduct deep-sea research, risks of conducting research due to military activity, and restrictions imposed by local governments. 

Although some countries have access to deep submergence vehicles, their main focus is oil & gas or military operations. Our research revealed that Asia had the second lowest number of universities, government agencies, and organizations per GeoArea that could conduct deep-sea research, compared to other regions.

Asia has a vast region of EEZ and deep-sea within its borders. Those who have access to the tools of deep-sea exploration and research feel improvement in the types and depth rating would be transformative to deep-sea exploration in this region. However, while Asia has higher access to vessels and DSVs than other regions, this access remains concentrated in the more affluent Asian nations and is less accessible in lower-income countries. 

The limited depth rating for vehicles across Asia currently makes it a significant challenge to explore the vast amount of deep ocean within their EEZs. Western and Southern Asia do not have any EEZ area deeper than 6,000 m, so vehicles there do not need to be rated beyond that depth. As in other regions, the deep-sea exploration and research strategy should be tailored to the location being explored.

Lower-cost access to deeper vehicles would have a transformative impact on Asia. Several countries, such as the Republic of Korea, Japan, and China, have already conducted deep-sea research through national efforts. Through collaboration with foreign experts, other countries have also undertaken deep-sea research. Still, this assessment revealed that they felt they would benefit from more access to deep-sea exploration tools within their own GeoArea.

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