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NOAA and the Ocean Decade

Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

Covering 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and producing more than half its oxygen, the ocean is critical to life on our planet. Understanding, protecting and sustainably managing ocean habitats  is essential to a healthy society, and learning more about how the ocean regulates and influences the Earth’s climate is key to understanding and predicting climate change. Growing recognition of significant threats to the ocean - and the critical environmental, economic, and other life-sustaining services it provides - has led to international consensus on the need for an “Ocean Decade”: a United Nations-led campaign for transformational ocean science that makes sustainable development possible.

This “Ocean Decade” focuses the world’s attention on the science and partnerships we need to make the future of the ocean healthy, productive, and sustainable for the benefit of society.

Outcomes for Societal Benefit

The Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development aims to achieve seven societal outcomes:

  • A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified and removed
  • A healthy and resilient ocean where marine ecosystems are mapped and protected
  • A predictable ocean where society has the capacity to understand current and future ocean conditions
  • A safe ocean where people are protected from ocean hazards
  • A sustainably harvested ocean ensuring the longevity of the world's food supply
  • A transparent ocean with open access to marine data, information and technologies
  • An inspiring and engaging ocean where society understands and values the ocean
The United Nations designates specific days, weeks, years and decades to mark particular events or topics and promote awareness and action. In 2017, the UN General Assembly declared 2021-2030 the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and is one of several international Decades currently underway. 

NOAA and the Ocean Decade

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict our changing environment and to manage and conserve America’s coastal and marine resources. NOAA’s work directly supports the Ocean Decade with science and services designed to achieve these seven outcomes, and improve sustainable utilization of ocean resources for a healthy blue economy, sustainable food production and societal benefit.

NOAA mission areas are well reflected in several of the first Ocean Decade actions endorsed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC). The NOAA Ocean and Coastal Council oversees NOAA’s participation in the Ocean Decade, and NOAA is joined by more than 20 additional federal agencies that coordinate through the Interagency Working Group for the Ocean Decade.

U.S. National Committee for the Ocean Decade

In response to the United Nations’ call for the establishment of national committees to coordinate national Ocean Decade activities, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have convened the U.S. National Committee in order to inspire U.S. scientific contributions to the effort. The U.S. National Committee engages broadly across the U.S. ocean community to ensure the breadth of America’s expertise can participate and contribute. The Interagency Working Group for the Ocean Decade works closely with the U.S. National Committee to ensure the breadth of America’s expertise can contribute.

Bringing the Ocean Decade home

The world is connected by one global ocean, and the advancement of ocean science in the U.S. creates a ripple effect across local, regional, national and global scales. The Ocean Decade also presents a tremendous opportunity for the U.S. to shape the future of ocean and coastal science, technology and sustainable development over the next ten years and beyond. Domestic and international partnerships enable the U.S. to achieve its goals of safeguarding human health, tackling climate change, ensuring coastal resilience and promoting economic prosperity, while contributing to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Latest UN Decade News from NOAA Research



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Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.


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