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NOAA, Aquarium of the Pacific report on the future  of American ocean exploration
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NOAA, Aquarium of the Pacific report on the future of American ocean exploration

Contact: Fred Gorell,, 301-734-1021

More than 100 explorers, scientists, government officials, academics, and industry leaders who attended the inaugural ‘Ocean Exploration 2020: A National Forum,’ in July, have proposed the future of American ocean exploration.  

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., hosted the Forum, and released a report this week examining the future of ocean exploration through a coordinated federal effort involving multiple agencies in collaboration with the private sector.

The report provides a number of suggestions about what a national program in 2020 should include:

  • National exploration priorities.  Participants noted the importance of the polar regions, the Indo-Pacific, and Central Pacific regions; the need to explore the entire water column, from seafloor to surface; and the importance of investigating processes and phenomena, like ocean acidification;
  • Mechanisms to promote partnerships across sectors and stakeholders to meet national needs for exploration;
  • Access to a greater number of ships, submersibles and other platforms dedicated to exploration;
  • A broader view of ocean exploration that includes other networks and capabilities, like ocean observatories, satellite observations,  and landers; and
  • Quick and wide sharing of collected data at little or no cost to the user.

There was a consensus among Forum participants citizen explorers can and should play an important role in ocean exploration by following and contributing to national expeditions online, and by analyzing data from past expeditions and submitting their work to national and international databases. Or, they may use their own tools, such as small inexpensive remotely operated vehicles equipped with cameras or scientific measuring devices, to obtain data for the science community.  

Participants felt strongly that new and enhanced existing ways are needed to engage the public, including new opportunities to participate in expeditions through telepresence—a system that uses satellite and Internet pathways to connect explorers ashore (whether scientists or the public) with real-time information from the seafloor.

“This, the first annual national forum on ocean exploration, exceeded our expectations,” said NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research Acting Director John McDonough. “The interest, enthusiasm and innovative thinking of the participants will most assuredly help set the foundation for a true national program of ocean exploration that combines the talents of individuals working in multiple government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector.”

“The Aquarium of the Pacific is proud to have partnered with NOAA in co-authoring this report. The report provides critical guidance for policymakers and decision makers at the national level and creates a framework for collaboration to advance the important cause of ocean exploration,” said Jerry Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific president and CEO.

Forum partners include NOAA, Aquarium of the Pacific, the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, Google, Inc., the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Esri, NASA, the National Geographic Society, the National Research Foundation, the Ocean Exploration Trust, the Roddenberry Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of State. For more information on the forum and to view the report, visit

The nonprofit Aquarium of the Pacific is a leader in ocean exploration education, bringing current ocean exploration and research initiatives to the forefront and connecting the public to scientists and explorers daily. Join us on FacebookTwitterYouTube and our other social media channels.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on TwitterFacebook and our other social media channels. Visit our news release archive.

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Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.


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