NOAA has the statutory authority and scientific expertise to take a lead role in conducting research and management of deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems. The Final Report of the US Commission on Ocean Policy recommended that NOAA "serve as the lead agency for management of deep-water coral communities." NOAA's deep-sea coral activities utilize the expertise from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), National Ocean Service (NOS) and National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) to carry out exploration, research and management efforts involving deep-sea corals.
NOAA's Strategic Plan for Deep-Sea Coral and Sponge Ecosystems: Research, Management, and International Cooperation, identifies NOAA’s mandates to improve the understanding, conservation, and management of deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems.
The Strategic Plan sets out NOAA’s objectives and priority activities in three major areas:
The centerpiece of NOAA’s deep-sea coral activities is the Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program.