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The Census of Marine Life was the largest survey of our oceans to date, involving an international effort to catalogue all known marine life over 10 years: around 6,000 new species were identified, equivalent to about one and half for every day of the program.
The project required significant resources, expertise (2,500 marine scientists were involved) and equipment in order to reach some of the most remote areas of our oceans.
It would have been a marine scientists’ dream, playing with fantastic technology to reach the deep seafloor in manned submersibles, remote operated vehicles (ROVs) and deep-towed vehicles which they dragged off the back of well equipped research vessels.
Many of the collaborations started during the Census have been ongoing, such as the largest online portal of marine data, the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) and Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) which were created to assist with uniform sampling of coral reef ecosystems around the world.
The project produced hundreds of scientific publications, resulted in incredible artistic works and supported the most expensive documentary made to date, Oceans. Oceans includes some of the best wildlife footage I have ever seen, and if you haven’t yet watched it – put it on your priority list (just don’t be too put off by the voice of Pierce Brosnan as the narrator in the Disney version!)
More information on the Census of Marine Life is available here: www.coml.org