GOOS is now directed at two main themes. One concerns largely the open ocean and is designed to provide information in support of ocean services and the forecasting of weather and climate change. The other concerns largely the coastal seas and is designed to provide information on the health of coastal ecosystems and their sustainable development, on contamination and pollution and the quality of water, on conditions pertaining to offshore commercial and recreational activities, and on marine hazards – especially storms and storm surges likely to affect life and property. (The climate module of GOOS is the ocean component of the Global Climate Observing System, GCOS, making these two systems inseparable).
Under a Memorandum of Understanding, the IOC of UNESCO, WMO, UNEP and ISC are responsible for co-sponsorship of the GOOS Steering Committee (GSC).