My Deep Sea, My Backyard: a pilot study to build capacity for global deep-ocean exploration and research

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The deep ocean is the largest ecosystem on the planet, constituting greater than 90% of all habitable space. Over three-quarters of countries globally have deep ocean within their Exclusive Economic Zones. While maintaining deep-ocean function is key to ensuring planetary health, deficiencies in knowledge and governance, as well as inequitable global capacity, challenge our ability to safeguard the resilience of this vast realm, leaving the fate of the deep ocean in the hands of a few. Historically, deep-ocean scientific exploration and research have been the purview of a limited number of nations, resulting in most of humankind not knowing the deep ocean within their national jurisdiction or beyond. In this article, we highlight the inequities and need for increased deep-ocean knowledge generation, and discuss experiences in piloting an innovative project 'My Deep Sea, My Backyard' toward this goal. Recognizing that many deep-ocean endeavours take place in countries without deep-ocean access, this project aimed to reduce dependency on external expertise and promote local efforts in two small island developing states, Trinidad and Tobago and Kiribati, to explore their deep-sea backyards using comparatively low-cost technology while building lasting in-country capacity. We share lessons learned so future efforts can bring us closer to achieving this goal. This article is part of the theme issue 'Nurturing resilient marine ecosystems'.

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Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences