On December 5, 2017, the United Nations General Assembly declared that the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (the “Ocean Decade”) would be held from 2021 to 2030, led by the Intergovernmental Ocean Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Ocean Decade provides a common framework for countries to include ocean science in their efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Ocean Decade framework requires the engagement of many different sectors to create new ideas, solutions, partnerships and applications, these include: scientists, governments, academics, policy makers, business, industry and community members and leaders.

The mission of the Ocean Decade is ‘to catalyze transformative ocean science solutions for sustainable development, connecting people and our ocean’. To find out more about the UN Ocean Decade visit the Ocean Decade website.

The Ocean Decade defines ‘ocean science’ in the broadest sense: including not only the natural and physical sciences but also social sciences, humanities, interdisciplinary approaches, science-policy interface, technology and infrastructure, science-innovation interface, and Indigenous, local, and experiential knowledge. 

Ocean science recognizes the central role of the ocean in the broader earth system and includes consideration of where the ocean meets the land, the atmosphere, and the ice pack.

The ocean is experiencing the effects of human-created climate change. Scientists, industry and communities alike have demonstrated a need to work together to restore and steward our oceans and its ecosystems. The Ocean Decade provides a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to create a new foundation across the science-policy interface between research and local communities, and to strengthen the management of our oceans and coasts.

The Ocean Decade will bolster international cooperation to develop the scientific research and innovative technologies that connect ocean science with the needs of society.

Ten Challenges have been identified as priorities in the Decade:

  • Understand and beat marine pollution

  • Protect and restore ecosystems and biodiversity

  • Sustainably feed the global population

  • Develop a sustainable and equitable ocean economy

  • Unlock ocean-based solutions to climate change

  • Increase community resilience to ocean hazards

  • Expand the Global Ocean Observing System

  • Create a digital representation of the ocean

  • Skills knowledge and technology for all 

  • Change humanity’s relationship with the ocean 

Seven Ocean Decade outcomes describe the goals of the Ocean Decade (the "Ocean We Want"):

  • A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified and reduced or removed

  • A healthy and resilient ocean where marine ecosystems are understood, protected, restored and managed

  • A productive ocean supporting sustainable food supply and a sustainable ocean economy

  • A predicted ocean where society understands and can respond to changing ocean conditions

  • A safe ocean where life and livelihoods are protected from ocean-related hazards

  • An accessible ocean with open and equitable access to data, information and technology and innovation

  • An inspiring and engaging ocean where society understands and values the ocean in relation to human wellbeing and sustainable development

Who is involved?

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, managed by the Decade Coordination Unit, is responsible for supporting global ocean science and services. In the Northeast Pacific, the Ocean Decade is coordinated by Decade Coordination Offices (established by national agencies–NOAA in the USA, DFO in Canada) and the Tula Foundation's Ocean Decade Collaborative Center for the Northeast Pacific (DCC-NEP).

The following Decade Collaborative Centres (DCCs) and Decade Coordination Offices (DCOs) provide targeted support to the Ocean Decade through a coordination and catalysis role for Decade Actions at the regional or thematic level:

  • Raising awareness of endorsed programs, projects and activities in the NE Pacific Region 

  • Supporting scientific coordination and project planning 

  • Identifying opportunities to collaborate across disciplines, jurisdictions, sectors,  and regions

  • Engaging scientists, traditional knowledge holders, ocean professionals, students, First Nations, policy-makers and decision-makers at all levels of government, industry groups, and others in support of our oceans 

  • Building technical and scientific capacity, as well as capacity for dialogue and collaboration among scientists, stakeholders and others. 

  • Fostering ocean literacy and connecting people to the ocean

The DCC-NEP and its staff team deeply value equity, justice and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. We strive for inclusion of diverse voices and the co-design and co-production of projects with the communities most impacted by our work.

In our first year, we will prioritize establishing partnerships, understanding the goals of the Global Programmes and identifying the needs of projects in our region. We may act like a bridging organization—providing connections between programmes and projects and catalyzing collaboration. One of the first areas we will explore in depth is Cultural Heritage Management in our region to identify potential projects. Over time, we will facilitate co-design and co-production of projects across the various Programmes through convening meetings and workshops, hosting training sessions and by participating in conversations across the region. We will support knowledge translation and amplification of the activities of the Ocean Decade to foster ocean literacy in our region.

DCC-NEP will work with partners in Alaska to California on projects spanning the coastal margin, open ocean, and deep sea. The Northeast Pacific region includes the Northeast Pacific Ocean sub-basin and adjacent coastline of Canada and the USA (California to Alaska inclusive, extensions to the broader North Pacific basin where applicable).

What are the boundaries of the Northeast Pacific region?

The Northeast Pacific region shares commonalities in biological, physical and socio-cultural processes and histories. Ocean processes stretching thousands of kilometers along the Northeast Pacific coast drive marine ecosystem productivity that ultimately affects local systems and communities. The Northeast Pacific region is home to the California Current and Gulf of Alaska large marine ecosystems which fuel offshore and deep ocean productivity and deliver nutrients to the nearshore, impacting coastal ecosystems and the people that depend on them. 

Connecting science and communities across this region can have profound impacts on our understanding of coastal and ocean systems and the successful development and implementation of ocean solutions. 

  • Connecting and collaborating 

    • The Global Stakeholder Forum is the primary platform used for individuals to actively engage with the UN Ocean Decade

    • Northeast Pacific Community of Practice on the Global Stakeholder Forum (TBA)

  • Providing resources (funding, investment, skills, coordination, communication) 

  • Leading or participating in a Decade Action (see below)

  • Sharing the Ocean Decade activities within your networks

Ocean Decade Actions are the tangible initiatives that will be carried out across the globe to fulfill the Decade vision over the next ten years. These actions are focused on the advancement and application of knowledge to support the development of solutions and are not policy-prescriptive by nature. Ocean Decade Actions may be proposed and carried out by proponents including, but not limited to, research institutes, governments, UN entities, intergovernmental organizations, other international and regional organizations, business and industry, philanthropic and corporate foundations, NGOs, educators, and community groups or individuals (e.g. via community-led science initiatives).

Several levels of Ocean Decade Actions will be implemented:

  • Programmes

  • Projects

  • Activities: Decade Activities are a one-off standalone initiative (such as an awareness-raising campaign, a scientific workshop or a training opportunity). Activities will enable a programme or project or directly contribute to an Ocean Decade Challenge.

  • Contributions: Decade Contributions support the Ocean Decade through provision of a necessary resource (e.g. funding or an in-kind contribution). A contribution can support either the implementation of an Ocean Decade Action or the coordination costs of the Ocean Decade.

The following guidance is also available in a downloadable PDF

Decade Activities that are one-off standalone initiatives (such as an awareness-raising event, a scientific workshop, a conference, or a training opportunity) can be submitted for endorsement at any time (note: it may take up to 6 weeks to process endorsement for an Activity).

Invitation → Proposal → Review → Endorsement


The UN Decade of Ocean Science will invite Decade Actions (Programmes and Projects) to be submitted for endorsement during regular Calls for Decade Actions launched every 6 months throughout the Decade. For Programmes, calls will vary in their thematic and/or geographic focus. There is no limit on who can seek endorsement for a proposed Decade Action (research institutes, governments, NGOs, community groups, philanthropic foundations, business, industry and individuals). 

What is the process for endorsement?
Process to Request Endorsement for a Decade Action, for Programmes, Projects and Contributions


When requesting endorsement, proponents of proposed Decade Actions will submit either an Expression of Interest (for Programmes) or a Request for Endorsement (for Projects). This proposal will invite proponents to demonstrate how they fulfill those criteria in the following list that are relevant to their proposed Decade Action: 

  1. Contribute to fulfilling the Ocean Decade Challenges and to achieving the Decade objectives and the associated sub-objectives.

  2. Accelerate the generation or use of knowledge and understanding of the ocean, with a specific focus on knowledge that will contribute to the achievement of the SDGs and complementary policy frameworks and initiatives.

  3. Are co-designed or co-delivered by knowledge generators and users, and thus facilitate the uptake of science and ocean knowledge for policy, decision making, management and/or innovation.

  4. Ensure that all data and resulting knowledge are provided in an open access, shared, discoverable manner in accordance with the provisions of UNCLOS, and are appropriately deposited in recognized data repositories consistent with the IOC Oceanographic Data Exchange Policy or the relevant UN subordinate body data policy.

  5. Strengthen existing or create new partnerships across nations and/or between diverse ocean actors, including users of ocean science.

  6. Contribute toward capacity development, including, but not limited to, beneficiaries in SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs.

  7. Overcome barriers to diversity and equity, including gender, generational, and geographic diversity.

  8. Collaborate with and engage local and indigenous knowledge holders.


For all proposed Decade Actions, the Decade Coordination Unit (DCU) may contact proponents to discuss the proposal, suggest modifications, or make connections to other parties working on similar issues. 

  • For Programmes, the DCU organizes the review process including a technical review submitted to the Decade Advisory Board which makes recommendations on endorsement to the Executive Secretary of the IOC. 

  • For Projects that are being solicited by endorsed Decade programmes, the DCU will organize a first technical review of the submission and will seek the advice of the relevant endorsed programme on the submission, and make recommendations on endorsement to the Executive Secretary of the IOC.

The DCU will work with Decade Coordination Offices and Decade Collaborative Centers to request advice that may fall within their purview. Review is expected to take 3-6 months depending on the type and complexity of the Decade Action submitted. 

All supporting materials for Calls for Decade Actions (Programmes, Projects and Contributions) will be available on the Global Stakeholder Forum.

Endorsement of an initiative as a Decade Action provides official recognition that the initiative is part of a collective effort to meet the Ocean Decade vision. Proponents of endorsed Decade Actions will have the opportunity to join a highly visible, shared, global effort that builds on decades of achievement in ocean science. There will be opportunities to create new collaborations across disciplines, geographies and generations, as well as opportunities to access new sources of support.

For more information: Call for Decade Actions 04-2022.

Ready to dive in? There’s a place for everyone in the Ocean Decade—stay connected to help ensure a thriving, resilient, sustainable and productive Northeast Pacific Ocean. Sign up for our newsletter.