Air–sea exchange is thought to be one of the major routes by which halocarbons and dimethyl sulphide reach the troposphere and stratosphere. Once there, in different ways, they participate in chemical reactions that have implications for ozone depletion and climate change. The gases are released by phytoplankton and other algae, but our present understanding of the sources and sinks is insufficient to establish a balanced global budget. Published data suggest that there are regions of coastal and ocean waters that constitute a major source, but, for halocarbons, in other regions the ocean is a net sink. For example, in many open oceanic areas, the rate of degradation of methyl bromide outweighs production. Here we present data from the Central Indian Ocean, a region considered to be low in terms of biological productivity. Little is known about trace–gas release from the Central Indian Ocean and without such data it is impossible to even hazard a guess at the global ocean source to the atmosphere.