Our ocean is full of amazing creatures and underwater features that make it the incredible place it is. We can thank much of what we know about the oceans to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) fleet of 16 vessels. From shipwrecks to glacial fjords and rare sharks, the NOAA fleet of vessels is critical to our understanding of the underwater world. While providing vital services to our coastal communities, the NOAA fleet has come across some pretty unique finds.
Unfortunately, the vital services (and cool finds!) the NOAA fleet provides may be completely lost in just 10 years. If congress doesn’t support building new ships, in 2028, the aging NOAA fleet will dwindle to just eight ships—half of what they have now. With just eight ships, NOAA will lose its ability to do much of the critical work to understand, conserve and manage our oceans and coasts.
Here are five of NOAA’s coolest finds from some of their recent missions:
Sunken German U-boats
Multiple sunken German U-boats lay within the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA ship Nancy Foster helped use a multi-beam sonar system to map where the ships lay, ensuring the preservation of these historical artifacts.
Bobtail squids, like this one above, likely won’t get any bigger than the size of a golf ball. This one was found by the NOAA ship Oscar Dyson while studying Pollock in the Gulf of Alaska.
Mapping uncharted territory
Last surveyed over 40 years ago, the NOAA ship Rainier was able to map the Tracy Arm Fjord in SE Alaska, providing a 3-D surface image of the underwater glacial path.
This baby pocket shark was collected while studying whales in the Gulf of Mexico by the crew aboard the NOAA ship Pisces. The last pocket shark was found over 36 years ago off in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Peru.
Tuna larva (cuter than they sound!)
While studying Bluefin Tuna on the outskirts of the Gulf Stream, NOAA scientists aboard the NOAA ship Gordon Gunter collected this little Bluefin Tuna larva. While small now, this larva could grow up to 2,000lbs.
In addition to these rare and amazing discoveries, the NOAA fleet also provides vital information to our coastal communities. Much of what we know about fish stocks, maritime shipping routes, oceanic climate information, and even weather events can all be traced back to the NOAA fleet. When hurricanes create emergency situations for our nation and coastal economies, NOAA vessels are among the first on the scene to ensure the safety of vessels delivering supplies to those in need.
Besides NOAA, who could be hurt by slashed funding for NOAA vessels? Our blue economy, ocean ecosystems, and coastal communities. Here are just some of the impacts we would see from a reduced NOAA fleet, according to NOAA’s Fleet Plan:
- Complete loss of NOAA’s mapping capabilities in the Pacific Ocean, Arctic Ocean, and Bering Sea. Currently, only 1.4% of the Arctic is surveyed to modern standards. A lack of up-to-date maps increases the potential for ship groundings.
- Bathymetric surveys (how we measure water depth and what the ocean floor looks like) will be severely limited all across our oceans. These surveys help us in a variety of ways, including improving fish stock assessment models. Just one year of lost data collection in a stock like Pollock would result in a loss of over $40 million.
- A 66% percent loss in fishery stock assessment capabilities in the Gulf of Mexico. Lack of fishery data means more conservative stock quotas and lost revenue for the coastal economies in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Half the capability to collect marine debris by NOAA vessels in the Pacific Ocean. The vast amount of marine debris in the Pacific Ocean is currently endangering ocean habitats and wildlife. The loss of NOAA vessels means more marine debris impacting the Pacific Ocean.
Congress must ensure that NOAA can construct new ships and continue providing us with critical information and data. Let Congress know today that you support funding new vessels for NOAA!