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Why Assess Global Deep-Sea Capacity?

Deep-sea exploration and research are limited by the expense, inefficiency, and inequitable access to the existing tools and resources worldwide.

Published onSep 12, 2022
Why Assess Global Deep-Sea Capacity?

I am very excited to share the results of one of the Ocean Discovery League’s first major projects, the 2022 Global Deep-Sea Capacity Assessment, a baseline assessment of the technical and human deep-sea capacity of every coastal area with deep ocean worldwide.

Deep-sea exploration and research are limited by the expense, inefficiency, and inequitable access to the existing tools and resources worldwide. --Dr. Katy Croff Bell, Founder and President, Ocean Discovery League, USA


The concept for this assessment has been growing for more than four years. It arose from My Deep Sea, My Backyard, a pilot project sparked at an event I hosted at the MIT Media Lab in 2018 called Here be Dragons. Led by Drs. Diva Amon and Randi Rotjan, the goal of My Deep Sea, My Backyard was to provide deep-ocean technology and training for scientists, students, and educators in Kiribati and Trinidad and Tobago, two small island developing states that did not have the capacity to explore and research their own Exclusive Economic Zones.

We learned many lessons, and My Deep Sea, My Backyard highlighted for me the need for increased access to deep-sea technology and training to use that technology. While we were running My Deep Sea, My Backyard, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development was in its planning process. There was much attention focused on capacity development and the transfer of marine technology, but a baseline assessment of global deep-sea technical and human capacity did not exist. Measuring progress over the Ocean Decade would prove challenging, if not impossible.

As of January 2021, the 2020 Global Ocean Science Report was the closest analog, but it only included the 45 countries responsible for the majority of ocean science publications from 2010 to 2018. We believed that a more comprehensive and equitable assessment, including all coastal areas with deep ocean, was necessary to understand where we stand today.

Deep-sea exploration and research are limited by the expense, inefficiency, and inequitable access to the existing tools and resources worldwide. This lack of access makes it challenging, if not impossible, to explore, understand, and effectively manage one’s own waters, resulting in only a tiny fraction of the deep sea being studied and characterized.

Over the last year and a half, Ocean Discovery League convened a global team to address this challenge. We are now using the 2022 Global Deep-Sea Capacity Assessment to guide our work in developing low-cost data collection systems, AI-driven data analysis tools, and capacity development programs to close the gaps identified in this report. We also hope it will provide the information needed for others in the ocean community to strategically develop, equitably implement, and quantitatively measure the progress of deep-sea exploration and research capacity development throughout the Ocean Decade.

This report will continue to grow as we receive new data and fill in even more global gaps, and we will release updates periodically at https://deepseacapacity.pubpub.org/

Dr. Katy Croff Bell
President & Founder
Ocean Discovery League

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