The Political Road to GOOS

The road to GOOS and EuroGOOS was a long and tortuous one involving many gradual iterations of the international law of the sea and European projects. In essence, before there could be any overtures made towards international collaboration on marine data collection, a working framework of marine boundaries, operations, and data sharing had to be implemented.

Treaties such as the Convention on the Continental Shelf in 1958 made tentative steps towards producing working boundaries on a country’s jurisdictional rights in relation to the waters surrounding it.[i] Further work in this direction was accomplished by the 1968 United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of the Seabed Beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction which recognised that there would necessarily be areas of the seabed, and, consequently, the ocean, which do not fall into the authority of any one country.[ii] Dr. Nicholas Flemming, the first director of EuroGOOS, was part of the Economic and Technical Working Group for this committee, and noted that as discussions intensified around international maritime law, the makeup of the committees became more political and legalistic. [iii]

At a level where the discussion was “90% political and legal” a new panel of experts emerged to confer on what would become The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982, coming into full force in 1994.[iv]  The GOOS prospectus went so far as to say that without the definitions of territory, rights, and obligations of UNCLOS the implementation of GOOS would have been impossible.[v] It provided a legal and operational standard for international maritime activity more comprehensive than any preceding framework. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), in encouraging the collection of environmental data at sea, along with its distribution in real-time also paves some of the way for GOOS.[vi]

[i] Flemming Nicholas C. (2021). Apollonia on My Mind, Sidestone Press, Leiden, Netherlands. Creative Commons Public Access: p. 346

[ii] Apollonia on My Mind. pp. 346-357

[iii] Apollonia on My Mind. p. 357

[iv] Apollonia on My Mind. p. 357

[v] Ryder, Peter (1998). The GOOS 1998, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, Paris, France. p. 27

[vi] The GOOS 1998, p. 27.