"We must go where no one has ever gone before, 'see' the oceans through a new set of technological 'eyes,' and record these journeys for posterity." – President's Panel Report of 2000, Discovering Earth's Final Frontier: A U.S. Strategy for Ocean Exploration
The President's Panel Report of 2000 recommended that the nation undertake a national program of ocean exploration, with discovery and the spirit of challenge as cornerstones. The Panel's recommendations gave rise to NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration in 2001 and helped establish NOAA as the lead agency for a federal ocean exploration program.
Title XII of Public Law 111-11 officially established the NOAA ocean exploration program in March 2009. This law requires NOAA to consult with the other federal agencies involved in ocean exploration, as well as external stakeholders, to establish a "coordinated national ocean exploration program" that promotes data management and sharing, public understanding, and technology development and transfer. The law also requires NOAA to organize an "ocean exploration forum to encourage partnerships and promote collaboration among experts and other stakeholders to enhance the scientific and technical expertise and relevance of the national program."
While partnerships have always been a defining characteristic of NOAA ocean exploration program activities, Ocean Exploration 2020 is the first "ocean exploration forum" and it is the first time NOAA has convened its partners and other stakeholders in ocean exploration from the academic community, private sector, and not-for-profit organizations to focus on a national strategy for ocean exploration.
It is our expectation that Ocean Exploration 2020 will yield a framework for such a national strategy for ocean exploration that will include all stakeholders and their contributions to the U.S. ocean exploration endeavor.
On July 19-21, 2013, NOAA and the Aquarium of the Pacific co-hosted Ocean Exploration 2020: A National Forum. This was the first-ever such event and was a unique opportunity to help shape national ocean exploration in the coming decade.
The first two days of Ocean Exploration 2020 were invitation-only events that brought together the most important ocean exploration stakeholders from academia, foundations, government agencies, and the private sector. We also collected input from the online community and encouraged virtual participation throughout the event.
The program was designed to encourage participants to be thoughtful and creative in deciding what our nation’s ocean exploration program should be and a strategy for getting there.
On the final day of Ocean Exploration 2020, everyone was encouraged to come to the Aquarium of the Pacific for a day celebrating ocean exploration. Guests had the opportunity to meet and hear from historical and modern-day ocean explorers, see demonstrations of remotely operated vehicles under water, and watch live video feeds from three deep-sea exploration vessels. Kid’s activities, including guest appearances by the Octonauts, were included throughout the day.