June 28, 2022

Ocean exploration matters [World Oceans Day/National Ocean Month]

Posted by Laura Guertin

“During National Ocean Month, as we celebrate the beauty and power of our ocean, let us remember our shared responsibility to protect and preserve it. Together, let us recommit to caring for our ocean and enhancing its economic and ecological sustainability for generations to come.” — from The White House, A Proclamation on National Ocean Month, 2022

Life below water, with a fish pictured under waterEach year, the month of June is filled with ocean-related celebrations and conferences, from National Ocean Month (see prior blog post) and Capitol Hill Ocean Week, to World Oceans Day (June 8) and International Day of the Seafarer (June 25). From June 27-July 1, 2022, the UN Ocean Conference took place in Portugal with the theme Save Our Ocean, Protect Our Future. The conference overview calls attention to our lack of knowledge about the ocean, as well as UN Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water.

“It nurtures unimaginable biodiversity and produces food, jobs, mineral and energy resources needed for life on the planet to survive and thrive. There is a great deal we still do not know about the ocean but there are many reasons why we need to manage it sustainably – as set out in the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water.” — About the 2022 UN Ocean Conference

Both the U.S. Presidential Proclamation and the UN Ocean Conference focus on protection and preservation of our ocean resources, but there is a key point mentioned on the UN conference About page – there is a great deal we still do not know about the ocean. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that more than 80% of our ocean is unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored (NOAA Ocean Facts). This adds a layer of complexity to the efforts working towards sustainable solutions to the challenges faced by our ocean from natural and human causes.

NOAA published a website for World Oceans Day titled Ocean Exploration Matters. The site lists six reasons for ocean exploration, with supporting explanations:

a list of six reasons for why ocean exploration is important


Earlier today, I emailed an undergraduate student from my campus a link to the Ocean Literacy Principles, which lists the seven most important ideas about the ocean that everyone should learn/know. But to reach and advance knowledge of our ocean, this site from NOAA on Ocean Exploration Matters serves as a reminder that we still have very far to go and much to learn – without much time to collect the data we need. More exploration is needed, whether it be from the NOAA fleet of ships and aircraft, scientific ocean drilling (JOIDES Resolution and the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), for example), NASA’s Earth Observing System of satellites, or Saildrones, etc.

Although the spring semester is over for colleges and universities in the United States, the ocean-related celebrations during the month of June are an excellent reminder that when we do head back into the classroom, we should not just focus on the “what” about the ocean (what we know/don’t know), but why we need to know – as NOAA says, why ocean exploration matters.