Executive Summary


International agreements and conventions call for safety at sea, effective management of the marine environment, and sustainable utilization of its resources. Achieving the important and challenging goals of these agreements depends on the ability to rapidly detect and provide timely predictions of changes1 in a broad spectrum of marine phenomena that affect (1) the safety and efficiency of marine operations; (2) the susceptibility of human populations to natural hazards; (3) the response of coastal
ecosystems to global climate change;(4) public health and well being; (5) the state of marine ecosystems; and (6) the sustainability of living marine resources. We do not have these capabilities today.The purpose of establishing a Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) is to develop these capabilities.

The sponsors of GOOS are the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the International Council for Science (ICSU). GOOS is envisioned as an operational, global network that systematically acquires and disseminates data and data products on past, present and future states of the marine environment.The observing system is being developed in two related and convergent modules: (1) a global ocean module concerned primarily with detecting and predicting changes in the ocean-climate system and improving marine services (led by the Ocean Observations Panel for Climate (OOPC), which is jointly sponsored by World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS); and GOOS) and (2) a coastal module concerned with the effects of large scale changes in the ocean-climate system and of human activities on coastal ecosystems, as well as improving marine services (led by the Coastal Ocean Observations Panel (COOP), which is sponsored jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and GOOS).

This report presents recommendations of the Coastal Ocean Observations Panel (COOP) for the design of the coastal module of GOOS. It is divided into three sections:

(1) Rationale and goals (Prologue, Chapters 1 and 2),
(2) Design (Chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6), and
(3) Initial guidelines for formulating an Implementation Plan (Chapter 7).

The design plan describes the vision for an integrated and sustained observing system for the coastal ocean, defines the elements of the system, and describes how they relate to each other to achieve an operational system. The plan provides a framework for how the community of nations can make more cost-effective use of collective resources to address, in a more timely fashion, environmental issues and problems of mutual concern. This is the first step toward the formulation of an implementation plan which is expected to be completed by the end of 2004.

1) Change – “to cause or turn or pass from one state to another; to alter or make different, to vary in external form or essence” (Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Unabridged Dictionary).Thus, if one is to detect and predict change, one must be able to detect and predict “states.” In addition, the word “change” does not imply a particular time or space dimension. Changes occur over a broad spectrum of scales (e.g., seconds to centuries) and variability on one scale is change on another.