Prioritizing Areas for Future Seafloor Mapping, Research, and Exploration Offshore of California, Oregon, and Washington

Bethany Williams1,2, Bryan Costa3, Mathew S. Kendall4, Ken Buja4 and Jennifer Kraus4, (1)NOAA, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Silver Spring, United States, (2)CSS Inc., Farifax, VA, United States, (3)NOAA, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Santa Barbara, CA, United States, (4)NOAA, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Silver Spring, MD, United States
Spatial information about the seafloor is critical for decision-making by marine science, management and tribal organizations. While this type of information is important, its collection is expensive, time consuming and logistically intensive. Developing a network of partners and coordinating data needs can help overcome these challenges by leveraging collective resources to meet shared goals. To help promote coordination across organizations, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) developed a spatial framework, process and online application to identify common data collection priorities across space. This application was used by organizations participating in NOAA’s West Coast Deep Sea Coral Initiative (WCDSCI) and Expanding Pacific Research and Exploration of Submerged Systems (EXPRESS) Campaign to identify overlapping, high priority areas for seafloor mapping, sampling and visual surveys offshore of U.S. West CONUS Coast (WCC). Ten high priority locations were broadly identified for future mapping, sampling and visual surveys based on the results of the prioritization. These locations were distributed throughout the WCC, primarily in depths less than 1,000 m. Participants consistently selected (1) Exploration, (2) Biota/Important Natural Area and (3) Research as their top reasons (i.e., justifications) for prioritizing locations. Participants also consistently selected (1) Benthic Habitat Map and (2) Bathymetry and Backscatter as their top data or product needs in high priority grid cells. The map layers developed here were published in NOAA’s U.S. Mapping Coordination website to allow participants (and other users) to collectively track their overall progress towards addressing key priorities areas identified in this effort. Combined, these tools and this information will enable NOAA WCDSCI, EXPRESS and other organizations to more efficiently leverage resources and coordinate their mapping of high priority locations along the WCC.