Why in News:

The Global Ocean Census has been launched with the aim of identifying 100,000 marine species over the course of ten years.

Important Points:

  • A team of scientists embarked on a research vessel to explore the cold waters of the Barents Sea in the Arctic region.
  • Their primary focus is on discovering new marine species near cold seeps, which are cracks on the seafloor emitting gases like hydrogen sulfide and methane.
  • The areas around these fissures may harbor previously unknown species, including soft corals, glass sponges, sea pens, and crustaceans.
  • Currently, it is estimated that only about 10% of marine species have been formally described, leaving approximately 2 million species yet to be identified.
  • The Ocean Census initiative has been launched with an ambitious goal of discovering 100,000 new marine species within the next ten years.
  • To achieve this objective, the initiative plans to conduct numerous expeditions to marine biodiversity hotspots, utilizing advanced technologies such as high-resolution imagery, DNA sequencing, and machine learning.
  • In its inaugural year, the Ocean Census will undertake seven expeditions, with plans for even more in the future. The first expedition is already underway in the Barents Sea, conducted in partnership with the University of Troms.
  • The initiative aims to foster collaboration among various stakeholders, including science institutes, businesses, civil society organizations, and media, to accomplish its objectives.
  • Building on the legacy of past efforts to document marine life, such as the Challenger Expeditions (1872-1876) and the more recent Census of Marine Life (2000-2010), the Ocean Census seeks to make significant contributions to our understanding of marine biodiversity.
  • The Nippon Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic organization in Japan, and the Nekton Foundation, a marine science and conservation institute in the U.K, jointly established the Ocean Census to explore and unveil previously unknown marine life.
  • While the Census of Marine Life, which conducted 540 marine expeditions, identified approximately 1,200 new marine species, many other organisms still await formal identification.
  • The importance of the ocean in regulating the Earth’s climate, providing sustenance, and supporting livelihoods for billions of people cannot be understated.
  • However, the ocean is currently facing numerous threats, including overfishing, pollution, ocean warming, acidification, and the impacts of climate change.

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