A difficult or near-impossible task is sometimes described as "trying to count the fish in the sea." But since the year 2000, marine scientists have been trying to do exactly that with a ten-year global Census of Marine Life (CoML). Scheduled to be completed in two years, the project aims to catalog much of the life in the sea.
Life on land began "only" 400 million years ago. In the oceans, however, it started about 3.2 billion years earlier, when our planet was just 1.34 billion years old. The oceans now contain 99 percent of the Earth's living space and about 80 percent of all its life forms.
Despite this, between only 5 and 10 percent of that living space has been explored. This means that over the last 200 years of organized marine biological research, science has barely sampled the vast populations of the seas. This ignorance has suggested that a massive, complex program of exploration be initiated to know and understand the greatest living mass on our planet. Here new discoveries will become the rule rather than the exception.