Development of global ocean observing capacity for the biological EOVs is on the cusp of a step-change. Current capacity to automate data collection and processing and to integrate the resulting data streams with complementary data, openly available as FAIR data, is certain to dramatically increase the amount and quality of information and knowledge available to scientists and decision makers into the future. There is little doubt that scientists will continue to expand their understanding of what lives in the ocean, where it lives and how it is changing. However, whether this expanding information stream will inform policy and management or be incorporated into indicators for national reporting is more uncertain. Coordinated data collection including open sharing of data will help produce the consistent evidence-based messages that are valued by managers. The GOOS Biology and Ecosystems Panel is working with other global initiatives to assist this coordination by defining and implementing Essential Ocean Variables. The biological EOVs have been defined, are being updated following community feedback, and their implementation is underway. In 2019, the coverage and precision of a global ocean observing system capable of addressing key questions for the next decade will be quantified, and its potential to support the goals of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development identified. Developing a global ocean observing system for biology and ecosystems requires parallel efforts in improving evidence-based monitoring of progress against international agreements and the open data, reporting and governance structures that would facilitate the uptake of improved information by decision makers.