Despite being largely unknown, the deep sea is nevertheless extremely important.
© Australian Fisheries Management Authority.
- Intrinsic value: Every expedition to the depths results in new species being found. Sometimes entire new ecosystems are discovered, such as around hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. An entire new domain of life has even been found in the depths: Archaea, an ancient form of life most closely related to the first life on Earth. And all this with only 1% of the deep ocean floor so far explored.
- Scientific value: The specialized adaptations of deep-sea organisms are not just interesting for interest’s sake: an understanding of their biochemistry could also lead to biochemical, medical, and other advances.
- Fisheries: The deep sea is increasingly being targeted by commercial fisheries, both in national waters and on the High Seas. Patagonian toothfish, for example, lives at depths below 2,500m in the Southern ocean. Its tasty flesh fetches prices of up to $US35 per kilogram, earning it the name of "white gold" amongst fishers. With overfishing having depleted many epipelagic and coastal fisheries, as many as 40% of the world’s fishing grounds are now in waters deeper than 200m.