For thousands of years humankind has sought to explore our oceans. Evidence of this early intrigue dates back to 130,000 BCE, but the advent of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in the 1950s introduced technology that has had significant impact on ocean exploration. Today, ROVs play a critical role in both military (e.g. retrieving torpedoes and mines) and salvage operations (e.g. locating historic shipwrecks such as the RMS Titanic), and are crucial for oil and gas (O & G) exploration and operations. Industrial ROVs collect millions of observations of our oceans each year, fueling scientific discoveries. Herein, we assembled a group of international ROV experts from both academia and industry to reflect on these discoveries and, more importantly, to identify key questions relating to our oceans that can be supported using industry ROVs. From a long list, we narrowed down to the 10 most important questions in ocean science that we feel can be supported (whole or in part) by increasing access to industry ROVs, and collaborations with the companies that use them. The questions covered opportunity (e.g. what is the resource value of the oceans?) to the impacts of global change (e.g. which marine ecosystems are most sensitive to anthropogenic impact?). Looking ahead, we provide recommendations for how data collected by ROVs can be maximised by higher levels of collaboration between academia and industry, resulting in win-win outcomes. What is clear from this work is that the potential of industrial ROV technology in unravelling the mysteries of our oceans is only just beginning to be realised. This is particularly important as the oceans are subject to increasing impacts from global change and industrial exploitation. The coming decades will represent an important time for scientists to partner with industry that use ROVs in order to make the most of these 'eyes in the sea'.
Available for download on Saturday, April 11, 2020