US: The Bureau of Ocean Energy, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced that a multi-agency team of ocean scientists has launched an expedition using sonar to map deepwater canyons, and to identify sensitive biological habitats, coral communities and archaeological/ historically significant sites.
According to NOAA’s press statement, USGS involvement will lead to discovery of timely, relevant and impartial information about the landscape, our natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten us, focusing on biology, geography, geology, geospatial information and water.
This cooperative effort to gather information for science-based decision making is consistent with the National Policy for the Stewardship of the Oceans, Our Coasts and Great Lakes, adopted by the US President Obama in July 2010.
Through a process called echo-sounding, technicians are using sonar aboard the ship to generate 3-D bathymetric seafloor maps. These maps will allow scientists to identify features on the seafloor to be investigated over the next two years during follow-on expeditions. Bathymetry refers to measuring the ocean’s depths.
The expedition will end on June 17, and is the first of several in a joint-agency partnership over the next three years. Total funding for the three-year study is approximately USD 9 million, shared equally among the three agencies. The expedition is conducted through an interagency agreement as part of the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP).