A Colombian oceanographer who conducts deep-sea studies in search of discoveries that benefit mankind says a comprehensive ocean-exploration program must be created in the United States.

Santiago Herrera is part of a group of more than 100 scientists, engineers and potential marine-exploration financiers invited to a two-day National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meeting in Long Beach, California, to express their ideas about how to create a U.S. marine-research program.

"The idea is to come up with a joint plan to create the program so in the future we can work as a team ... to conduct better marine exploration," he said.

The oceanographer criticized the United States and other countries for investing much more in space programs than in oceanic research.

"The sea covers 70 percent of the planet and therefore the majority of animals and plants on earth are there, but the oceanic exploration that's been conducted thus far is just 5 percent of the entire ocean," Herrera told Efe.

"We're ignorant about 95 percent of the ocean. That's why with the few research programs that exist we discover new species every month. Obviously, many of our fishing, medicinal, mining, energy and other resources are located in the sea and we need to know where," he said.

The expert said "very good technology" is needed for marine exploration, such as boats able to prepare more precise maps of the ocean floor.

"Robotic technologies need to be developed, as well as new computer programs, for example," Herrera added. EFE