Without additional investment, the U.S. oceanographic fleet could shrink to a third of its current size over the next 20 years, scientists warn.
According to a report from the White House, the state of federal science vessels is poor: the fleet is aging, boats are being retired or sold off, and insufficient investment is coming in to allow the fleet to be replaced.
The report states: "“the Fleet will experience a reduction in size and capacity due to several vessels nearing their projected end of service life."
There are currently 42 U.S. research vessels are deployed in the world’s oceans and the Great Lakes to carry out a wide variety of scientific missions. Scientists are worried that without additional funding, valuable marine research will be affected.
Commenting on the report, Mark Abbott, dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University in Corvallis, said in the science journal Nature: "The community is deeply concerned that the ability to go to sea will be significantly reduced in the next decade, as research ships are retired or laid up."
Despite the warnings, there is some good news. The Sikuliaq, a new vessel for use in polar regions, has been funded, and two research ships are being built by the US Navy.