70% of nations have deep-sea environments within their maritime Exclusive Economic Zones, yet only 16% of them are able to explore those environments. This is especially true for less economically developed countries. The dearth of technological capability and knowledge leads to a lack of exploration, inappropriate or inadequate management decisions, and unaware populations. My Deep Sea, My Backyard was a pilot project that aimed to try to change this by empowering nations to explore their own deep-sea backyards using low-cost technology, while building lasting in-country capacity.
‘My Deep Sea, My Backyard’ took place in two small island developing states – the Republic of Kiribati and Trinidad and Tobago – from summer 2018 to summer 2019. It utilized deep-sea Drop Cameras developed by National Geographic’s Exploration Technology team and OpenROV’s Trident Remotely Operated Vehicles to explore our mesophotic zone and deep ocean for the first time. These technologies were used as they collect compelling imagery, but require minimal resources and expertise.
Why should we explore our deep ocean?
The deep ocean is not only our largest ecosystem here in Trinidad and Tobago but also in the world, providing over 95% of all habitable space on Earth! It sequesters carbon reducing the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere, cycles nutrients and even aids in detoxification. It also provides us with key resources such as food, oil and gas, metals, pharmaceuticals, and, of course, inspires us! This is especially true in Trinidad and Tobago with the exploration for deepwater oil and gas reserves, a key source of economic development, currently underway. We need to understand our deep sea in order to know how we are impacting it and therefore how to manage it, and we can only do this by first discovering what habitats and communities exist. Remember: Our planet cannot be healthy without a healthy deep ocean!