In late September, over 1,500 scientists, practitioners, and stakeholders from around the world convened at the decadal OceanObs’19 conference to plan the future of ocean observing science and technology. The conference statement, a consensus plan created by the participants of OceanObs’19, represents the most important issues facing the ocean observing community today and how the community plans to address them. Among the top priorities for the next 10 years: innovation, interoperability, governance, sustainability, and engagement.

Each of the OceanObs’19 sessions and daily plenaries created actionable recommendations based on their discussions that informed the final conference statement. From how to codesign observing systems with stakeholders, across regions and disciplines, and with multisectoral input to implementing Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) data practices, each session contributed an important dimension to the final statement. These recommendations will be gathered in a “Living Action Plan” to help fully realize these goals, as well as allow them to adjust and adapt as societal needs change.

Between now and OceanObs’29, which will be held in Qingdao, China, the community will turn these recommendations into actions. For the first time in the conference series’ history, a group of Indigenous delegates participating in OceanObs’19 presented a declaration calling upon the ocean observing community to formally recognize traditional knowledge and commit to building meaningful partnerships with Indigenous peoples as all participants move forward together with post-conference actions.

As we look to the future, ocean observations will provide critical scientific information to help nations gauge their progress in meeting the goals and targets of the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and other international commitments to sustainably managing Earth’s ocean and climate. Ocean observations will set the benchmark of the state of the ocean as we enter the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) and provide the means through which we measure the success of our efforts at the end of it.

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