Cooperative marine science activities of IOC in the Caribbean and adjacent regions have existed for more than thirty years. Over this period three distinct stages have marked the evolution of marine Sciences in the region. CICAR - 1968: The first regional effort in marine sciences in the Caribbean was the Cooperative Investigations of the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (CICAR) coordinated by IOC and modeled on the Indian Ocean International Expedition. Its aim was the understanding of the oceans and related processes in the Greater Caribbean region. To achieve its research goals, CICAR had first to concentrate on developing the capabilities of the participating countries to carry out marine scientific research. This became its major activity and the most significant impact of CICAR in the region.

IOCARIBE Association, 1975: The Member States recognized the benefits of CICAR and expressed their interest in creating a successor organization. The "Association of IOC for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions", using the acronym "IOCARIBE" for the first time, was approved by the Ninth Assembly of IOC in November 1975 for an experimental period of six years. After the experimental phase, and at the request of Member States, the output of the Association was evaluated and presented to the IOC Assembly in 1982.

Despite some shortcomings, the development of national capabilities reached during CICAR and later by the IOCARIBE Association was described as "impressive and satisfactory". The Association's most significant achievement was to provide a mechanism for regular contact and an international regional forum for dialogue and exchange of experiences and ideas among Member States.

IOCARIBE Sub-Commission, 1982: The Sub-Commission for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions, of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, was created in November 1982. It is the first in its kind and its purpose is to carry out the IOC global programmes on a regional basis for the Greater Caribbean. It replaced the former IOCARIBE Association and its predecessor CICAR.