Marine environments are influenced by a wide diversity of anthropogenic and natural substances and organisms that may have adverse effects on human health and ecosystems. Real-time measurements of pollutants, toxins, and pathogens across a range of spatial scales are required to adequately monitor these hazards, manage the consequences, and to understand the processes governing their magnitude and distribution. Significant technological advancements have been made in recent years for the detection and analysis of such marine hazards. In particular, sensors deployed on a variety of mobile and fixed-point observing platforms provide a valuable means to assess hazards. In this review, we present state-of-the-art of sensor technology for the detection of harmful substances and organisms in the ocean. Sensors are classified by their adaptability to various platforms, addressing large, intermediate, or small areal scales. Current gaps and future demands are identified with an indication of the urgent need for new sensors to detect marine hazards at all scales in autonomous real-time mode. Progress in sensor technology is expected to depend on the development of small-scale sensor technologies with a high sensitivity and specificity towards target analytes or organisms. However, deployable systems must comply with platform requirements as these interconnect the three areal scales. Future developments will include the integration of existing methods into complex and operational sensing systems for a comprehensive strategy for long-term monitoring.