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The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth's surface and contains 97 percent of the planet's water, yet more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored.  The ocean and lakes play an integral role in many of the Earth's systems including climate and weather. The ocean supports the life of nearly 50 percent of all species on Earth and helps sustain that life providing 20 percent of the animal protein and five percent of the total protein in the human diet.

One of every six jobs in the United States is marine-related and over one-third of the U.S. Gross National Product originates in coastal areas. The ocean is key to transportation, recreation and its resources may hold the cures to many diseases. 

NOAA protects, preserves, manages and enhances the resources found in 3.5 million square miles of coastal and deep ocean waters. NOAA's National Ocean Service provides products, services and information that promote safe navigation, support coastal communities, sustain marine ecosystems, and mitigate coastal hazards.

Monitoring and Understanding

NOAA is the lead federal agency for implementing a national Integrated Ocean Observing System that will be part of the greater Global Earth Observation System of Systems - or GEOSS. The aim is to make 21st century technology as interrelated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects, providing the science on which sound policy and decision-making must be built.

Sustained ocean monitoring helps people in ocean and lake-dependent industries such as shipping by providing them with information to make informed decisions. Long-term, consistent monitoring improves our understanding of the ocean’s role in many of Earth’s systems. 

NOAA maintains a network of buoys, tidal stations and satellite measurements that provide a continuous picture of the state of the ocean and Great Lakes. Through the National Estuarine Research Reserves NOAA tracks water quality, meteorology and nutrient data.  NOAA scientists are combining this information with other weather and climate data to begin addressing many important questions such as the dynamics behind climate change, the effects of human activities on ecosystems and the impact of pollutants on the marine environment.

NOAA also maintains one of the world’s largest archives of oceanographic data, used in long-term monitoring, ocean climatology, and ocean research, at the National Oceanographic Data Center.

Exploration and Research

NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research Program explores the unknown ocean, using and developing advanced technology for discoveries including new undersea habitats, communities, species, phenomena and greater understanding of ecosystems. NOAA led exploration is revealing clues to the origin of life on Earth, potential cures for human diseases, answers to help achieve sustainable use of resources, links to our maritime history, and information to help protect endangered species.

Understanding ocean ecosystem dynamics is critical for sustainable management of marine resources. NOAA's National Ocean Service, NOAA Research and NOAA Fisheries collectively work together to conduct leading edge scientific research to provide resource managers with the information and tools needed to balance society’s environmental, social, and economic goals.


Because the oceans play such an integral role in sustaining life on Earth, protecting this important resource is vital.  NOAA’s National Ocean Service maintains a network of thirteen National Marine Sanctuaries and one national marine monument that protects areas noted for their ecological and cultural richness.  In addition, NOAA is responsible through the Coral Reef Conservation Program for protecting vital coral reef ecosystems, some of the most biologically rich and economically valuable marine resources in the world.

NOAA also has a team of specialized scientists ready to respond quickly to hazardous material spills around the world such as oil and chemicals.  The National Ocean Service's Office of Response and Restoration provides scientific expertise for successful spill response and restoration, helping to reduce harm to people, the environment and the economy.  After a spill is cleaned, National Ocean Service works with NOAA’s Fisheries Service to restore natural habitat in its role as a Federal Trustee for the nation's marine resources.


NOAA’s mission is to serve the nation’s need for oceanic and atmospheric information, but doing so also means helping to ensure that the public understands how NOAA science impacts their daily lives and future prosperity. Through its Office of Education as well as the National Marine Sanctuary Program, National Sea Grant Program, National Estuarine Research Reserves and the NOAA Coral Program, NOAA is delivering educational tools and information supporting K-12 formal education, teacher professional development and informal education to the American public.