This section contains a brief summary of the data sources and existing assessments that will be used in the World Ocean Assessment. These resources provide information about aspects of the oceans but they are, of course, not managed by the Regular Process, and therefore no responsibility is taken by the Regular Process for the quality of the information they contain. Have we omitted something or anyone? Please let us know!



The GRAMED Database maintained by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) contains information on 1023 activities, including assessments, scientific research studies and data holdings.

The Ocean Health Index (OHI) comprises ten diverse public goals for a healthy, coupled human–ocean system calculated for coastal countries.  The OHI assesses food provision (fisheries and mariculture), artisanal fishing opportunity, natural products, carbon storage, coastal protection, tourism and recreation, coastal livelihoods and economies, sense of place (iconic species and lasting special places), clean waters and biodiversity.  The World Ocean Assessment will cover a similar set of topics, but rather than deriving a numerical index, it will produce in-depth analyses summarising the results of existing assessments.

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Assessment of Assessments Report

Published in 2009 for the United Nations on the number and coverage of existing marine environmental assessments in the global ocean.

Assessment of Assessments Report

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International Maritime Organization (IMO) - United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

World Shipping Council – the Council members operate approximately 90 percent of the global liner ship capacity and transport about 60 percent of the value of global seaborne trade, or more than US$ 4 trillion worth of goods annually.

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – This is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for fisheries and aquaculture.  Through its Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, it collects and disseminates global fisheries and aquaculture data and information.

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Offshore hydrocarbons

The World Petroleum Council – This organisation has 60 member countries representing over 95% of global oil and gas production and consumption. The WPC publishes annual conference proceedings and reports on special issues.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) -  An autonomous intergovernmental organization representing 28 advanced economies. IEA member governments share energy information and operate a permanent information system on the international oil market. The IEA produces regular reports on oil exploration and production developments; supply, demand, price and refining trends; OECD stocks; and international trade in crude and products.

The International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (OGP)  – This organization is a global forum for the world’s major publicly-traded, private and state-owned oil & gas companies, industry associations and major up-stream service companies work on best practices to achieve improvements in every aspect of health, safety, the environment, security, social responsibility, engineering and operations. OGP members produce more than half the world’s oil and about one third of its gas.


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Habitats to be covered in World Ocean Assessment I will include all marine environments, but will focus on benthic habitats which humans most commonly interact with: mangroves, salt marsh and other macro-vegetation areas; seagrass and eel-grass beds; estuaries and deltas; coral (and other biogenic) reefs; continental shelf rocky reefs and sandbanks; kelp forests; seamounts; submarine canyons; deep-sea banks and plateaus.

The structure of the Habitat section of World Ocean Assessment I will be informed by the European Nature Information System (EUNIS) habitat classification system, which uses hard/soft-sediment substrate classes as a major division of benthic habitat types.

Information on benthic habitats is published by specialised groups such as the international GeoHab (Marine Geological and Biological Habitat Mapping) consortium.  GeoHab was established in 2001 to bring together scientists from around the world working on the development of new thematic maps linking acoustic mapping and geological sampling to marine biology in a Geographical Information System environment to underpin sustainable ocean management.

Seafloor habitats will be informed by a new global seafloor geomorphic features map (GSFM) prepared to support the World Ocean Assessment, published in Marine Geology.  Background information and ArcGIS shape files can be found on:
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Protected species, vulnerable marine ecosystems, MPA’s


The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – This is the world’s oldest global environmental organization, bringing together governments, non-governmental organizations and individual scientists to deliver conservation and sustainability at both global and more local levels.  The IUCN publishes The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity - The CBD was initiated at the United Nations’ Conference on Environment and Development at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992.  Under its Jakarta Mandate, it works on marine biodiversity to identify Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSA’s)

Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems are recognised by many international organisations including the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the FAO and the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES).

Marine Protected Areas – a global database is maintained by The Sea Around Us.

Global Synthesis –  A report from the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans for the Marine Biodiversity Assessment and Outlook Series


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The distribution of marine biodiversity in the world ocean has been assessed by the international Census of Marine Life (COML).  The COML database is the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS).

UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme has published Marine Biodiversity Outlook Reports and summaries for the 10th Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). They provide an overview at a sub-global scale of the state of knowledge of marine biodiversity, the pressures it faces currently and the management frameworks in place for addressing those pressures.

The Convention on Biological Diversity has a Database of Scientific Assessments to provide information on completed, ongoing and planned assessments.

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Alien species

Alien species (sometimes referred to as invasive species or non-native species) inhabit areas beyond their natural distribution as a result of human activities. In these areas they can cause damage to other organisms, the environment and also have detrimental socioeconomic consequences.

A draft list of invasive species databases including marine invaders, has been produced by the International Invasive Species Specialist Group.

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Seabed mining

Valuable mineral resources are know to exist on the seafloor. These include those currently recovered in shallow water environments, such as diamonds, heavy mineral sands, aggregates and gold. In the last decade, interest has grown in the metals that occur associated with deep-sea environments, such as hydrothermal vents, seamounts and the abyssal plain. Deep-sea mineral deposits are not currently commercially extracted, but planning is well advanced to begin exploitation. In the area beyond national jurisdiction the seabed mineral resources are managed by the International Seabed Authority.

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Seabed (sediments, geomorphic features)

A new global seafloor geomorphic features map (GSFM) has been prepared to support the World Ocean Assessment, published in Marine Geology.  Background information and ArcGIS shape files can be found on:


The dbSeabed brings together a large amount of information on seafloor sediment characteristics including composition, grainsize and biological association.

There are a number of regional and national datasets including

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The ocean environment is studied by scientists who measure sea surface temperature, dissolved oxygen and nutrients among other things to characterise ocean regions and to understand ocean processes.  The World Ocean Database (WOD) project was established by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. The most recent release of the database WOD09 contains eleven data collections of ocean variables.  The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) is also a good source of ocean data and information.

The WOD has been utilized to produced the World Ocean Atlas containing global grids (1° and 5° resolution) of temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, apparent oxygen utilisation (AOU), percent oxygen saturation, phosphate, silicic acid and nitrate.

Global ocean surface current analysis OSCAR, is derived from satellite altimeter and scatterometer and related information. It can be used, for example, in fisheries management, monitoring debris and oil spills and ENSO monitoring and prediction.

There have been a number of large-scale programmes to look at the concentrations and fluxes of carbon and nutrients in the ocean.  Relevant links are:

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Climate change impacts (IPCC)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produces scientific assessments related to human -induced climate change, climate change impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. The fifth assessment report is due in 2014.

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