Remote sensing systems are critical tools used for characterizing the geological and ecological composition of the seafloor. However, creating comprehensive and detailed maps of ocean and coastal environments has been hindered by the high cost of operating ship- and aircraft-based sensors. While a number of groups (e.g., academic research, government resource management, and private sector) are engaged in or would benefit from the collection of additional seafloor mapping data, disparate priorities, dauntingly large data gaps, and insufficient funding have confounded strategic planning efforts. In this study, we addressed these challenges by implementing a quantitative, spatial process to facilitate prioritizing seafloor mapping needs in Washington State. The Washington State Prioritization Tool (WASP), a custom web-based mapping tool, was developed to solicit and analyze mapping priorities from each participating group. The process resulted in the identification of several discrete, high priority mapping hotspots. As a result, several of the areas have been or will be subsequently mapped. Furthermore, information captured during the process about the intended application of the mapping data was paramount for identifying the optimum remote sensing sensors and acquisition parameters to use during subsequent mapping surveys.
Keywords: Washington State; decision making; mapping; planning; prioritization; remote sensing; seafloor.