FAO Home>Fisheries & Aquaculture
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nationsfor a world without hunger


The Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) was founded in 1967 by United Nations agencies to deal with the growing concerns of marine pollution problems. GESAMP was first established to advise the agencies, and their Member States, on scientific aspects of marine pollution. In 1993 it was agreed to extend the role of GESAMP to cover all scientific aspects on the prevention, reduction and control of the degradation of the marine environment to sustain its life support systems, resources and amenities.

Following calls to review the Group "with a view to improving its effectiveness and comprehensiveness" and "establishing a means for GESAMP to interact with scientific representatives of Governments and major groups", the GESAMP Sponsoring Agencies commissioned an independent and in-depth review of GESAMP (2000-2002). The independent review concluded that GESAMP should be continued as an agreed source of independent scientific advice on marine environmental protection to the UN system

The Agencies are finalizing a Strategic Plan, and are working on a new interagency Memorandum of Understanding on the future GESAMP.

The need for GESAMP results from the international policy requirement for a cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary, and science-based approach to marine environmental affairs, and the practical need to foster coordination and cooperation among UN agencies with relevant responsibilities through a joint advisory mechanism.


The sponsoring agencies are the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Food and Agriculture Organization if the United Nations (FAO), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)/United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). UNIDO, the UN Industrial Development Organization, is considering becoming a GESAMP Sponsoring Agency.

GESAMP consists of 25-30 experts in a wide range of disciplines relevant to marine environmental protection, including social science and economics. Experts act in an individual capacity, not as representatives of their governments or institutions, ensuring the independence of GESAMP's advice. Individual studies and assessments are usually carried out by specialist working groups that also include experts who are not current members of GESAMP.

The structure of GESAMP will comprise the Group of Experts, designated working groups, the Executive Board and Committee, the Pool of Experts and a GESAMP office.

Main functions

GESAMP's mission is "to provide authoritative, independent, interdisciplinary scientific advice to organizations and governments to support the protection and sustainable use of the marine environment."

GESAMP focuses on marine environment protection
GESAMP focuses on marine environment protection
Courtesy of NOAA 

GESAMP will serve the Sponsoring Organizations and other interested parties and in particular undertake the following functions:

In response to requests:

  1. Integrate and synthesize the results of regional and thematic assessments and scientific studies to support global assessments of the marine environment;
  2. Provide scientific and technical guidance on the design and execution of marine environmental assessments;
  3. Provide scientific reviews, analyses, and advice on specific topics relevant to the condition of the marine environment, its investigation, protection, and/or anagement.

In addition GESAMP will regularly:

  1. Provide an overview of the marine environmental monitoring, assessment, and related activities of UN agencies and advise on how these activities might be improved and better integrated and coordinated;
  2. Identify new and emerging issues regarding the degradation of the marine environment that are of relevance to governments and sponsoring organizations.


In more than 35 years, GESAMP produced 43 in-depth technical studies on topics related to marine pollution, protection and conservation, 4 broad assessments of the state of the global marine environment, and 33 reports of its meeting sessions.

The group periodically produces a global State of the Marine Environment report. Its longest running working group evaluates the hazards of chemicals carried by ships for the MARPOL Convention. Over its history, GESAMP has contributed to the landmark Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment (1972), MARPOL 73/78, the UN Convention on Law of the Sea, the Bruntland Commission's report on sustainable development (1987), the Rio Conference (UNCED) and Agenda 21 (1992), and the Washington Protocol on land-based activities (1995). Its current programme provides advice on the state of the marine environment, oil inputs into the sea from sea-based activities, environmental risk assessment and communication in coastal aquaculture, hazards of chemicals carried by ships, environmental exposure models for application in seafood risk analysis, and use of science in marine environmental policy-making processes.


FAO's major involvement in GESAMP's work centres around coastal and marine fisheries issues related to the protection of the environment. In particular, FAO is providing the technical secretariat to the GESAMP Working Groups on Environmental Impacts of Coastal Aquaculture and on Environmental Exposure Models for Application in Seafood Risk Analysis.

Powered by FIGIS