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The deep sea, depths below 200 meters, occurs in large areas of the U.S. seabed within the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The U.S. OCS area is roughly 2.5 billion acres of seabed, which is roughly equal to the land area of our nation. Much of the deep sea, is still unmapped or inadequately described and this lack of information limits our ability to understand and sustainably manage these unique ecosystems and their resources. Exploring and mapping the deep sea will improve our understanding about marine hazards; energy, mineral and biological resources; large-scale Earth systems; and how our coastal areas and human activities are connected to these remote areas of the planet.

The U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extends up to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coastlines of the mainland U.S., the commonwealths of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. overseas territories and possessions. The EEZ can include both the geologic continental shelf as well as the continental slope and rise, with 70–75 percent of the included seafloor at water depths that reach 9,843–16,405 ft (3,000–5,000 m).

The USGS has experienced and diverse teams dedicated to advancing ocean science with expertise spanning earth- and life-science disciplines. These teams have technological capabilities for characterizing deep-sea minerals, gas hydrates, tectonics and related geohazards, ocean ecosystem function, biodiversity, and the connections between these deep ocean and coastal areas and associated human activities. USGS experts also specialize in assessing hazards and risks, as well as developing, managing and integrating data with geospatial information to better visualize, measure, describe and monitor the resources in ways that can be easily transferred to and used by partners and other stakeholders.