Today we announce the release of the 2022 Global Deep-Sea Capacity Assessment, the most comprehensive assessment of the technical and human capacity for deep-sea exploration and research in every coastal country and territory with deep ocean worldwide. The report presents global and regional results related to organizational infrastructure, technical capacity, access to deep-sea tools, satisfaction with those tools, and the most significant deep-sea challenges and opportunities each region faces.

This report documented significant global inequities in deep-sea exploration worldwide. Previous studies underrepresented these capabilities by gathering feedback from a limited set of countries. We made a concerted effort to conduct outreach to communities often not included in surveys of this kind–an effort that is necessary to ensure equity is at the heart of all future ocean exploration. The results demonstrated that very few countries have the ability to explore their own deep ocean.

Ocean exploration is still a significant perpetrator of colonial science because the current tools are expensive and inaccessible. We need to create inclusive tools, training, and access that open this area of exploration up to everyone worldwide. I hope this report will provide the information needed for 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. 

I want to express my gratitude for the amazing team who made the Global Deep-Sea Capacity Assessment possible, in particular Maud Quinzin, Susan Poulton, and the global research team, the My Deep Sea, My Backyard team, who inspired the project from the outset, our authorship and translation team, and the hundreds of survey participants who contributed their knowledge and perspectives to this critical project.

Finally, please save the date for our 2022 Global Deep-Sea Capacity Assessment webinar on Thursday, October 6, at 11:00 am ET. This will be the first in a series of online events this fall, where we will dive into the results–and possible solutions–revealed in the report.

Transformative change is on the horizon, and we all have a role to play!

Katy Croff Bell
Founder & President
Ocean Discovery League

Read the Full Report

Executive Summary

The 2022 Global Deep-Sea Capacity Assessment offers a deep dive into the human and technical capacity for deep-sea exploration and research in every country and territory with deep ocean in their exclusive economic zones.

Key Findings

Many who consider deep-sea exploration & research important do not have deep-sea tools & technologies: Respondents for numerous subregions, particularly Micronesia, Melanesia, Western Africa, and Eastern Africa, felt that deep-sea exploration & research was considered important in their location but did not have access to the tools needed to do deep-sea work.
In many places, there is expertise but not technology: In every subregion, respondents indicated that the presence of in-country individuals with deep-sea expertise exceeded the availability of deep-sea tools. More access to vessels, DSVs, sensors, and data tools would activate available expertise to conduct locally-led deep-sea exploration and research.
More deep submergence vehicles are needed globally: Deep submergence vehicles were the technical capacity that had the lowest presence, access, and satisfaction worldwide. More access to lower-cost, easy-to-use technologies suitable for deep water would be transformative globally.
Non-research assets could be available for deep ocean research: While vessels were the technical capacity with the most extensive presence worldwide, in general, vessels were the technical capacity to which respondents had the second-lowest access. Unlocking access to additional vessels for use in research would be transformational.
Prioritizing deep-sea exploration is essential: Many respondents felt that their countries did not consider deep-sea research and exploration important. Making stronger internal cases for why deep-sea exploration is critical in each location could be beneficial in securing support.
Tailored strategies are needed for each location: Better understanding the physical environment can help ensure the greatest return on investment. For example, in Central America, Melanesia, and Western Asia, 75% of all EEZs lie between 200 to 4,000 m, and all African EEZs are less than 6,000 m. Creating deep-ocean technologies and strategies tailored to each location would be more efficient than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Detailed research and inclusion matter: The results of this study were more nuanced than expected. The assessment documented previously underreported details, from the available human capacity to possible vessel access. The very act of including and reaching out to people in locations often under-resourced and overlooked in many global studies created a community and a sense of inclusion that made the effort and detail of this report and future studies of its kind valuable in many ways.

Global Summary of Results

High-level findings on the deep-sea capacity of 186 geographical areas, divided into six global regions: Europe, Asia, Northern America, Africa, Oceania, and Latin America & the Caribbean.

Region Summaries

High-level findings on the deep-sea capacity of 44 geographical areas in Africa, divided into five subregions. 
High-level findings on the deep-sea capacity of 55 geographical areas in the Americas, divided into four subregions.
High-level findings on the deep-sea capacity of 33 geographical areas in Asia, divided into four subregions.
High-level findings on the deep-sea capacity of 26 geographical areas in Europe, divided into four subregions.
High-level findings on the deep-sea capacity of 28 geographical areas in Oceania, divided into four subregions.

Conclusion: Toward an Equitable Future

Tremendous changes are not only possible; they are on the near horizon. With technological advancements toward broader access to the deep sea and a global call for increased access to tools and training we now have the ability to establish more deep-sea capacity worldwide. Read More
We express our sincere gratitude to all of our survey participants, contributors, and the global research teams for their time and dedication to this project. Full Acknowledgements
Media Inquiries

For media and press inquiries, please contact Susan Poulton, Director of Strategy and Communications for Ocean Discovery League for more information.

The 2022 Global Deep-Sea Capacity Assessment is an official activity of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

Photo Credits: Gregory Piper, Richard Barnden, Ron Watkins, Mike Bartick, Connor Holland, Tracey Jennings via Ocean Image Bank.
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