Researchers Find Only 6 Percent of Oceans Have Been Adequately Studied

Written by on September 14, 2012 in Marine Life, Policy & Ocean Law
North Atlantic Right Whale. Photo Credit: NOAA.

North Atlantic Right Whale. Photo Credit: NOAA.

New research from scientists in Scotland and Germany suggests that marine mammals are at risk from human impacts such as pollution, noise and bycatch because less than six percent of the ocean surfaces have been adequately surveyed.

Researchers from the University of St Andrews and the University of Freiburg compiled data on estimates of whale, dolphin and porpoise populations from 1975 to 2005.  They determined that only 25 percent of all the oceans have been surveyed at all.  Their findings suggest that there isn’t enough information to appropriately assess threats to these marine mammals.

“One of the primary motivations for our research was to know where whales might be most vulnerable to the use of military sonar or seismic surveys to find oil under the seabed,” explained co-author Dr. Nicola Quick, honorary research fellow from the University of St Andrews.

“The enormous data gaps we found in our study remind us that we still have a lot of work to do to predict whether vulnerable species might be using the waters that have never been surveyed.  We recommend international coordination of surveys to share resources to fill in these gaps,” she said.

“The issue of data gaps pervades every issue in marine planning, from fisheries management to marine protected areas.  Because of the strict science needs of whaling, the information available on whales and dolphins may paint an optimistic picture of marine science.  Knowledge gaps are almost certainly worse for deep-sea invertebrates, sharks or marine viruses,” said lead author Dr. Kristin Kaschner of the University of Freiburg.

Humpback whale. Photo Credit: NOAA.

Humpback whale. Photo Credit: NOAA.

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Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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