Ocean, Seas and Coasts

The ocean’s power of regeneration is remarkable - if we just offer it the chance. We are in reach of a whole new relationship with the ocean, a wiser, more sustainable relationship. The choice lies with us.

Sir David Attenborough

We live on a blue planet, with oceans and seas covering more than 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface. Oceans feed us, regulate our climate, and generate most of the oxygen we breathe. They also serve as the foundation for much of the world’s economy, supporting sectors from tourism to fisheries to international shipping. Despite their importance, oceans are facing unprecedented threats as a result of human activity. Every year, an estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the world’s oceans. At the same time, climate change is damaging coral reefs and other key ecosystems; overfishing is threatening the stability of fish stocks; nutrient pollution is contributing to the creation of dead zones; and nearly 80 per cent of the world’s wastewater is discharged without treatment. By adopting the dedicated goal on the ocean and its resources (SDG 14 “Life below water”) in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, countries worldwide recognise the central role of ocean and coastal ecosystems in achieving prosperity and human and ecosystem health. More information about ocean and seas can be found here.

The Importance of Ocean Monitoring and Data

Climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution – are putting economies, social well-being, human and ecosystem health at risk, while jeopardising opportunities to reduce poverty, and improve lives and livelihoods. Our ocean and coasts are being degraded by direct human activities, climate pressure and pollution from land, air and water sources that harm marine life, undermine coastal communities, and negatively affect human and ecosystem health. Ocean, estuarine, and coastal areas are vast and often difficult to access and, therefore, generally under-sampled and poorly understood.

Observing and monitoring systems are essential to better understand the impacts of society and human activities on ocean ecosystems and the services they provide. They are necessary to characterize and understand coastal and ocean dynamics and vulnerabilities at different temporal and spatial scales and are fundamental to guide human actions in response to natural events and potential climate change impacts, anticipating the occurrence of extreme weather and oceanic events and helping to minimize consequent personal and material damages and costs. A variety of physical, chemical and biological data have been collected to better understand the specific characteristics of each ocean area and its importance in the global context. Data and products obtained by an observatory are hence useful to a broad range of stakeholders, from national and local authorities to the population in general. Besides exploring oceanic patterns and dynamics, these observatories have proven to be important tools to support the sustainable use of the ocean and coastal zones.

The Global Environment Monitoring System for the Ocean and Coasts (GEMS Ocean) Programme

GEMS Ocean represents a voluntary and flexible global multi-stakeholder network that advocates the central role of the ocean and coasts in achieving prosperity and sustainability. Its mission is to build and convene a global Community of Practice across experts and society at large to provide capacity, analysis, innovation and synthesised information to decision and policy makers, civil society, international organisations as well as coastal communities worldwide in a holistic approach to keep the global ocean and coasts healthy and productive. To avoid duplication with existing initiatives, GEMS Ocean draws on information and analysis from existing monitoring efforts at national, regional, and global levels, including Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). GEMS Ocean aims to present compelling individual Use Cases at different scales (local to global) that illustrate successful efforts of protecting our ocean, e.g. by adopting nature-based solutions. The goal is thus, to familiarise and acquaint relevant societal stakeholders across all sectors with the facts and figures necessary for the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal ecosystems.

Explore the My Ocean Tool below to find out more about ocean data.

To open the My Ocean Tool in a new tab, click here

This version of the My Ocean Tool is the result of a collaboration and partnership effort between Mercator Ocean International and GEMS/Ocean

Additional Monitoring Tools
More Resources – Selected Assessments and Reports