Understanding oceans: Why UNESCO wants to map 80% of the world‘s seabed

  • IASbaba
  • February 16, 2022
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(Down To Earth: Science & Technology)

Feb 11: Understanding oceans: Why UNESCO wants to map 80% of the world‘s seabed – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/science-technology/understanding-oceans-why-unesco-wants-to-map-80-of-the-world-s-seabed-81525  


  • GS-3: Science & Technology
  • GS-3: Climate Change & Conservation

Understanding oceans: Why UNESCO wants to map 80% of the world‘s seabed

Context: Around 80 per cent of the world’s ocean floors will be mapped by 2030, pledged the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) February 10, 2022. 

  • At present, only 20 per cent seabed has been mapped and studied.
  • The UN agency called for mobilisation of the 150 member states of its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the private sector to carry out this exercise.
  • Joined hands with Japan’s Nippon Foundation in 2017, a non-profit that works on marine resource development among other projects, to launch the Seabed 2030 programme.
  • A total funding of $5 billion (over Rs 37,600 crore) will be required for the project. This amounts to an average of $625 million per year by 2030.

Gathering of Data

Oceans cover 70 percent of Earth’s surface, host a vast variety of geological processes responsible for the formation and concentration of mineral resources, and are the ultimate repository of many materials eroded or dissolved from the land surface. Hence, oceans contain vast quantities of materials that presently serve as major resources for humans.

The repository of knowledge will be gained through studying the topology and depth of seafloors to identify the following: 

  • Location of ocean faults
  • Workings of ocean currents and tides 
  • Transport of sediments

…to understand

  • Seismic and tsunami risks
  • Sustainable fisheries resources
  • Ways to deal with oil spills, air crashes and shipwrecks
  • Potential for offshore infrastructure

Ocean’s as a great resource base for the future

  • Findings made through ocean exploration are fundamental to reducing unknowns in deep-ocean areas and providing high-value environmental intelligence needed to address both current and emerging science and management needs.
  • Exploration helps to ensure that ocean resources are not just managed, but managed well, so those resources are around for future generations to enjoy.
  • Through ocean exploration, we can establish the baseline information needed to better understand environmental change, filling gaps in the unknown to deliver reliable and authoritative science that is foundational to providing foresight about future conditions and informing the decisions we confront every day on this dynamic planet.
  • This same knowledge is often the only source for basic information needed to respond appropriately in the face of deep-sea disasters.
  • Information from ocean exploration is important to everyone. Unlocking the mysteries of deep-sea ecosystems can reveal new sources for medical drugs, food, energy resources, and other products.
  • Information from deep-ocean exploration can help predict earthquakes and tsunamis and help us understand how we are affecting and being affected by changes in Earth’s environment.

Recent Efforts by UNESCO

  • Multiple-beam sonars to measure water height at different points and directions simultaneously is one such innovation that will help scan seabeds in a shorter period. 
  • Deploying a fleet of 50 dedicated mapping vessels, intensifying the use of sonar on autonomous vessels, transmission of cartographic data archived by governments and corporations are other tools suggested by IOC experts. 
  • UNESCO also launched a repository of educational content for policymakers and curriculum developers for a holistic approach towards strengthening ocean research. 
  • It also advocated the use of traditional knowledge along with modern science to  achieve this goal.

India and Oceans

India has a unique maritime position. Its 7517 km long coastline is home to nine coastal states and 1382 islands. The Government of India’s Vision of New India by 2030 enunciated in February 2019 highlighted the Blue Economy as one of the ten core dimensions of growth.

  • For India, with 7,517 km long coastline, nice coastal states with 30 percent of the country’s population and three sides surrounded by the oceans, the ocean is a major economic factor supporting fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, livelihoods and blue trade. 
  • The oceans are also storehouse of food, energy, minerals, medicines.
  • They are also modulator of weather and climate system of earth. Thus, oceanic health is important for Indian nonsoons.
  • Oceans also provide ecosystem services like carbon sequestration, coastal protection, waste disposal and the existence of biodiversity.

Significance of blue water economy, in case of India:

  • India has been part of various ad hoc committees of UN based on law of seas especially related to Indian Ocean to keep its strategic and political interest at the bay .With discovery of various mineral resources such as manganese and cobalt crust on ocean floor bed the potential of maritime mining has led to countries such as India, China and Japan.
  • With growing relation between Asia and Africa the Indian Ocean is key to India’s strategic dominance. And also Asia-Pacific growing trade links, it is necessary to maintain security in these regions.
  • With initiative Such as Ro- Ro ferry services between Ghogha in Saurashtra, and Dahej in South Gujarat will unlock the India’s true economic potential in environmental friendly and will reduce the vehicle movement in lands and hence will add to economic interest too.
  • India has large coastline and with new technologies in deep fishing the fisheries will provide a large number of employment and will also help in boosting exports and reduce trade deficit problem.


Blue Economy is an area which has huge untapped potential. If utilized in proper way, it can provide a huge boost to our economic growth and development. As the saying goes, one who controls the ocean controls the world. But if not explored sustainably, then it might create huge trouble for future generation. 

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Why does UNESCO want to map 80% of the world‘s seabed? Examine.
  2. Ocean beds are huge repositories of critical resources. Can you explain the distribution of such resources?

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