Monitoring marine megavertebrates as Essential Ocean Variables in the Global Ocean Observing System: Who, Why, How, and What Next for Implementation?

Prof Daniel Costa1, Dr. Samantha Simmons2, Dr Nic Bax3, Dr Patricia Miloslavich4, Dr Ward Appletans5, Dr. M. Andersen Garcia6, Dr. Albert Fischer7, Dr John Gunn4

1University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, United States, 2Marine Mammal Commission, Bethesda , USA, 3Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Hobart, Australia, 4IMAS, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 5Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO,, Brussels, Belgium, 6NOAA, Governmental Affairs, Silver Springs, USA, 7Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, Ocean Observations and Services Section, Paris, France

The Biology and Ecosystem Panel of the Global Ocean Observing System (UNESCO/IOC/GOOS) is responsible for identifying Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) for biological components of the oceans. Increased and better focused sustained ocean observations supported by the international scientific, governance and policy communities are needed to (a) globally determine and monitor appropriate trade-offs between conservation and sustainable use, (b) effectively mitigate or manage adverse changes including climate change, and (c) predict and prepare for potential future changes. Here we present the transparent, repeatable process used to identify EOVs for biology and ecosystems that are both relevant for society and technologically feasible to collect. Eight initial EOVs, were identified including two focused on megavertebrates: “Turtle, Bird and Mammal abundance and distribution” and “Fish abundance and distribution”. We describe the development of specification sheets and nascent efforts to generate community input/buy-in on the marine megavertebrate EOVs. Finally, we will describe plans to map existing observing platforms/programs through a series of workshops in 2019 under the NCEAS-Future Earth PEGASuS program and develop implementation plans for these two EOVs. The aim is to build on existing efforts to achieve a globally standardized, open access and sustained observing system, including marine megavertebrates, which will deliver societal benefits by informing national reporting activities such as the World Ocean Assessment, Sustainable Development Goal 14 and Aichi targets, among others. We invite you to add your observing network to our global compendium.


Daniel Costa is a Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California at Santa Cruz.  He completed a B.A. at UCLA, a Ph.D. at U.C. Santa Cruz and a post doc at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His research focuses on the ecology and physiology of marine mammals and seabirds, taking him to every continent and almost every habitat from the Galapagos to Antarctica. He has worked with a broad range of animals including turtles, penguins’ albatross, seals, sea lions, sirenians, whales and dolphins and has published over 500 scientific papers. His current work is aimed at recording the movement and distribution patterns of marine mammals and seabirds in an effort to understand their habitat needs. This work is helping to identify biodiversity hotspots and the factors that create them.  He has been developing tools to identify and create viable Marine Protected Areas for the conservation of highly migratory species. In addition his research is studying the response of marine mammals to underwater sounds and developing ways to assess whether the potential disturbance may result in a population consequence. With Barbara Block he co-founded the Tagging of Pacific Predators program, a multidisciplinary effort to study the movement patterns of 23 species of marine vertebrate predators in the North Pacific Ocean. He is an internationally recognized authority on tracking of marine mammals and birds.

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