The largest programme in history dedicated to ocean species discovery has been launched by The Nippon Foundation with the aim of strengthening marine conservation.

Image from the Nippon Nekton expedition 2022

Source: Nekton

The Nippon Foundation is seeking to revolutionise our understanding of marine life

This new partnership between The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO ‘Seabed 2030’ Project and The Nippon Foundation-Nekton ‘Ocean Census’ has the shared goal of unravelling the mysteries of the deep and enabling sustainable management practices.

“The partnership between Ocean Census and Seabed 2030 marks a pivotal moment in ocean scientific exploration and marine conservation. By integrating seafloor mapping data with a deeper understanding of where and what lives in our ocean, we can gain a holistic understanding of ocean ecosystems, their role in oxygen production, climate regulation and food security,” said Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of The Nippon Foundation.

“In combination, we will be able to identify areas of high conservation priority so we can develop effective strategies to safeguard ocean life - the life that makes all life on Earth possible.”

A unifying force

The Nippon Foundation and Nekton launched Ocean Census in April this year, with the aim of revolutionising our understanding of marine life.

Scientists maintain that we have discovered slightly more than 10 per cent of the species that live in the ocean, despite it being home to an estimated 2.2 million species.

The rate of discovery has remained relatively unchanged since the 1800s, with approximately only 2,000 new ocean species described per year.

However recent technological advances in high resolution imaging, DNA sequencing and machine learning mean that scientists can now considerably accelerate the process, and Ocean Census has set itself the ambitious target of discovering 100,000 new species over the next decade.

This will be achieved through expeditions to the ocean’s biodiversity hotspots, with species discovered on expeditions sent for imaging and DNA sequencing at Ocean Census Biodiversity Centres. 

Seabed 2030 is a collaborative project between The Nippon Foundation and GEBCO to inspire the complete mapping of the world’s ocean by 2030 and to compile all bathymetric data into the freely available GEBCO Ocean Map – GEBCO being the only organisation with a mandate to map the entire ocean floor.

This partnership is a testament to the collective commitment of Seabed 2030 and Ocean Census to unite and inspire global efforts in mapping and preserving the world’s ocean.

All data collected and shared with the Seabed 2030 project is included in the free and publicly available GEBCO global grid.