Sampling of the central region of the North Sea was carried out to study the spatial and seasonal changes of dissolved and particulate organic C (DOC and POC, respectively). The surface waters were collected during four cruises over a year (Autumn 2004-Summer 2005). DOC and POC concentrations were measured using high temperature catalytic oxidation methods. The surface water concentrations of DOC and POC were spatially and temporally variable. There were significantly different concentrations of DOC and POC between the inshore and offshore waters in winter and summer only, with no clear trend in autumn and spring. Highest mean concentrations of DOC were measured in spring with lower and similar mean concentrations for other seasons. POC showed a clear seasonal cycle throughout the year with highest surface mean concentrations found in autumn and spring, but lowest in winter and summer. The DOC distributions during autumn and spring were strongly correlated with chlorophyll suggesting extracellular release from phytoplankton was an important DOC source during these two seasons. The lower concentrations of DOC in summer were probably due to the heterotrophic uptake of labile DOC. The seasonal changes in the C:N molar ratios of surface DOM (dissolved organic matter) resulted in higher mean C:N molar ratios in spring and lower ratios in winter. These high ratios may indicate nutrient limitation of heterotrophic uptake immediately after the spring bloom. There is limited data available for DOC cycling in these productive shelf seas and these results show that DOC is a major component of the C cycle with partial decoupling of the DOC and DON cycling in the central North Sea during the spring bloom.