The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO is the United Nations responsible for supporting the world's ocean sciences and services. This organization enables its 149 Member States to work together to protect the health of our common ocean by coordinating programmes in ocean observation, hazard mitigation, tsunami warning and marine spatial planning. The IOC also provides guidance to other UN organizations and agencies on marine science, observations and data exchange. One of IOC's main objectives is to enable Member States to build the scientific and institutional capacity needed to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, which aims to conserve and sustainably manage ocean and marine resources by 2030.



On January 31, 2020, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO and the International Monohull Open Class Association (IMOCA) signed a new partnership. For two years, the entities will carry out several joint projects to support marine scientific research and raise awareness of the importance of ocean science in protecting the ocean and the sustainable use of marine resources.

All the activities to be carried out are coordinated by the "Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology in situ Observations Programme Support Centre" (OCEANOPS: a collaboration between the IOC and the World Meteorological Organization), which is managing nearly 10,000 ocean observing instruments, thus ensuring the continuous monitoring of the ocean and the atmosphere.

More agile than traditional scientific vessels, IMOCA monohulls reach areas of the ocean poorly served by regular maritime traffic. Data collection on the ocean and the atmosphere is carried out throughout their navigation: several instruments are embarked, allowing the deployment of Argo profilers and surface drifters.

"Everyone has a role to play in promoting a sustainable ocean, even more so when it comes to remote and less accessible areas of the ocean. The IMOCA Class boats are making a special contribution to ocean observations and the collection of vital ocean data," Vladimir Ryabinin said, Executive Secretary of the IOC of UNESCO, welcoming the partnership between sailing and Science.


As you can see on this map, the scientific beacons deployed at sea are mostly located in areas where navigation is easier. This is why the IOC-UNESCO and the skippers are carrying out several projects to support weather and sea observation.

The collection of data related to the ocean and the atmosphere is therefore done throughout their journey. Several instruments, managed by JCOMMOPS specialists, are carried on the sailboats, thus contributing to the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), coordinated by the UNESCO IOC.

In 2020, 13 weather buoys and 4 Argo profiling floats were deployed by skippers during the Vendée-Arctique-les Sables d'Olonne and the Vendée Globe. By 2024, the common objective of the IMOCA Class and the IOC-UNESCO is to mobilize the entire fleet so that 100% of the boats are contributors.

"We are a legitimate source of information. We are going to become navigators for science! For ten years I have been committed to the protection of the planet and more particularly the oceans with my 4myplanet project. I collect data on the water during each of my races to help the observation of the oceans "Alexia Barrier, TSE-4MyPlanet

"I am happy to support the UNESCO IOC by deploying a Météo France buoy in the Vendée Globe. As a skipper, I am very sensitive to the protection of the environment and more particularly the oceans. The IMOCA Class initiatives in terms of sustainable development allow me to take ownership of targeted actions and to become a real ambassador of the program."Maxime Sorel - VandB - Mayenne


UNESCO marked the start of the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development with a digital event entitled "A Brave New Ocean". The feature aims to raise awareness of the immense challenges and opportunities that the world's seas offer in achieving the UN's sustainable development goals.

"At the beginning of the third millennium, oceanography has the capacity to identify problems and offer solutions, provided we stop neglecting its contribution," said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

A unique opportunity

While 2021 has already been dubbed a "super year" for the ocean, UNESCO argued that it marks the launch of "the UN's massive commitment to our blue planet".

According to UNESCO, the Decade of the Ocean will provide a unique opportunity for nations to work together on the universal oceanography needed for the sustainable development of our common ocean.

UN Secretary General António Guterres said that "the protection and sustainable management of the ocean is essential - for food, livelihoods and the mitigation of climate disruption and related disasters".

"Restoring the ocean's capacity to feed humanity and regulate the climate is a major challenge," he added, calling on everyone to "make peace with nature to provide a prosperous and equitable world for all, leaving no one behind.

UN-endorsed goals for the Decade of the Ocean

  • A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified and reduced or eliminated.
  • A healthy and resilient ocean, where marine ecosystems are protected, restored and managed.
  • A productive ocean that supports a sustainable food supply and ocean economy.
  • A safe ocean where life and livelihoods are protected from ocean-related hazards.
  • An accessible ocean with open and equitable access to data, technology and innovation.
  • An ocean that is socially valuable, and where societies are committed to the sustainable development of the seas.

Explore the challenges of the Decade of the Ocean at