Warming seas, overfishing and pollution mean it is vital to improve the system for monitoring the world’s oceans, says a group of distinguished scientists.
The researchers say more data is needed to ensure the world is able to respond effectively to any potential threats.
An “adequate initial system” would include an integrated network of buoys, research vessels, satellites and tagging marine animals, they added.
The scientists want the global scheme to be completed within the next decade.
The call for action has been made by the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (Pogo), which includes many of the world’s leading oceanographic research centres.
A delegation of Pogo members will make their case at the annual ministerial meeting of the international Group on Earth Observations (Geo) in Cape Town, South Africa.
Tony Haymet, chairman of the Pogo’s executive committee, said the international community had agreed to “construct a comprehensive, integrated ocean observing system two decades ago”.
But he added that the venture was less than half completed.
“The good news is that we have demonstrated that a global ocean observing system can be built, deployed and operated with available technologies,” said Dr Haymet, director of the US’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
“Now we must move from experiment and proof-of-concept to routine use. Let’s complete the task before we are struck by more tsunamis or comparable calamities.”
According to Pogo, completing such a system over the next 10 years would cost an estimated $2-3bn (