In a report just issued this week, serious issues have been raised about the many undiscovered foods, useful chemicals and drugs, and the potential energy sources laying in wait to be discovered in the least explored area of our planet – its Oceans.
As a result of this report, a new effort is being undertaken to seek out these resources as recommended by the National Research Council. The Council is a branch of the National Academy of Sciences.
John Orcutt, Deputy Director of the Scripps Institue of Oceanography said that "A new program of ocean exploration is necessary … improved knowledge of our oceans represents more than an academic interest."
As Chairman of the committee that prepared the report, he said that vast portions of the oceans have yet to be discovered that contain potential geochemical and biological resources – especially in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Committee, in its report, stated that "It is difficult to predict what discoveries are still to come … but "it is clear that ocean exploration will improve the accuracy of our predictions of global climate change" and "produce new products that will benefit humanity."
United States Representitive Jim Greenwood, R-Pa., who pushed for the report, welcomed the findings.
The reasons for loss of coral, the impact of pollution and the potential damage from intense fishing all are poorly understood, Greenwood said. "The fact remains that the research that is most important in terms of our survival as species is understanding the ocean," he said.
Greenwood said he hopes the White House will call a major conference on the oceans. Meanwhile, he said, the next step is to begin working on getting funding through Congress.
There is a need "to put the oceans on the political agenda." stated Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif "….the ocean is never given the type of attention that has been given to space."
"The United States should lead by example," said Orcutt.
The report said key areas to focus on are:
_ The diversity of life forms in the oceans.
_ The Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica.
_ The influence of deep ocean water on climate change.
_ Deep sea archaeology.
The panel said the program should be operated by an outside contractor that can receive funding from a variety of agencies and outside sources.