The Census of Marine Life was coordinated by a Secretariat based at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington, D.C. and governed by an international Scientific Steering Committee. Thirteen National and Regional Implementation Committees worked under the guidance of the international Scientific Steering Committee and served to strengthen the global reach of the Census in support of marine biodiversity research. A Synthesis Group was established to organize, integrate, and synthesize the vast information gathered by the Census to ensure comprehensive content and products for 2010. Census-wide communications, media relations, education, outreach activities were coordinated by the Census Education and Outreach Team based at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography's Office of Marine Programs. The Mapping and Visualization Team based at Duke University's Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab was responsible for developing and sharing methods to display the results of the ten-year Census of Marine Life.
Seventeen projects conducted the research and analysis on six ocean realms that were reported in the first Census of Marine Life in October 2010. The Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research Technology Panel monitored new technologies for observing marine life and recommended when cutting-edge marine technologies were mature enough to be used routinely in Census field projects.
Support for the Census of Marine Life came from government agencies concerned with science, environment, and fisheries from more than 80 nations, as well as from private foundations and corporations. The Census associated or affiliated with several intergovernmental international organizations including the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the UN, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the UN Environment Programme and its World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, the Group on Earth Observations and the North Pacific Marine Science Organization. It also affiliated with international nongovernmental organizations including the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research, Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans and the International Association of Biological Oceanography of the International Council for Science. The Census of Marine Life established collaborative partnership with entities such as the Encyclopedia of Life and the National Geographic Society to broadly disseminate program results to wide global audiences.