Marine Scientific Research

Collecting marine organisms at low tide

Photo 35: Collecting marine organisms at low tide. (NOAA Photo Library.)

It is the policy of the United States to develop, encourage, and maintain a coordinated, comprehensive, and long-range national program in marine science for the benefit of mankind to assist in protection of health and property, enhancement of commerce, transportation, and national security, rehabilitation of our commercial fisheries, and increased utilization of these and other resources (33 U.S.C. § 1101).

Marine scientific research underpins the science-based mission of NOAA and is a cross-cutting priority in NOAA’s Next Generation Strategic Plan. Marine scientific research is the general term most often used to describe those activities undertaken in the ocean to expand scientific knowledge of the marine environment. Marine scientific research includes physical and chemical oceanography, marine biology, fisheries research, scientific ocean drilling and coring as well as other activities with a scientific purpose.

Under international law, all States have the right to conduct marine scientific research subject to the rights and duties of other States (see Law of the Sea Convention, in particular Part XIII). Under international law, all States are also required to promote and facilitate the development and conduct of marine scientific research in accordance with the Law of the Sea Convention.

NOAA works with the U.S. Department of State to develop and implement marine scientific research policy and law. NOAA also conducts marine scientific research, both within waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction and beyond. Before conducting marine scientific research within foreign EEZs or territorial seas or on the seabed or subsoil of foreign continental shelves, NOAA seeks the express consent of the relevant foreign coastal State through proper notification and diplomatic clearance procedures in conformity with the applicable provisions of the Law of the Sea Convention.

NOAA works with the U.S. Department of State to review proposals by foreign researchers to conduct marine scientific research in the U.S.EEZ to ensure compliance with the requirements of the laws NOAA administers. These laws include the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and (for Marine National Monuments), the Antiquities Act.

NOAA seeks to leverage and benefit from the marine scientific research conducted by foreign scientists in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction by routinely requesting the data and reports that such research generates.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


Care has been taken in the compilation of this web page. The page has links to other governmental and non-governmental organizations. The appearance of these links does not constitute an endorsement by NOAA or the U.S. Department of Commerce of the web sites accessible through these links or of the information they contain. As we cannot control the information on these external web sites, we cannot take responsibility for them and we shall not be liable for any loss, damage, or inconvenience arising from any inaccuracies.