In 1972, realizing that a modernized GEBCO series was necessary to meet the needs of present-day users, the IHO and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (of UNESCO) (IOC) decided to cosponsor an entirely new edition. The Fifth edition was to be compiled by marine scientists employing the best available geological and geophysical knowledge of the ocean floor.
Production of the 5th series was supervised by a Joint IHO / IOC Guiding Committee composed of 10 members, five nominated by the IHO and five by the IOC. An important innovation of the fifth edition was the inclusion of sounding control on the face of each sheet. Discrete soundings appear as grey dots and echo-sounding tracks are shown as grey lines in the background to the contours.