Abstract Mapping and monitoring underwater environments are topics of progressively increasing importance, but they also introduce several new challenges in robotics, due to the unique underwater conditions. Underwater robots operating close to underwater structures should be equipped with robust localization modules, robust navigation pipelines capable of safely navigating the underwater robot by sensing and avoiding obstacles, and collecting the necessary observations of the surroundings. Especially, tasks that require visual inspection executed by autonomous underwater robots are significantly challenging due to the visibility limitations of the underwater domain. We propose a new active perception framework for underwater robots utilizing arbitrary multi-camera configurations, which safely navigates the robot in close proximity to target structures. It also produces motions that encourage the robot to actively track multiple visual objectives, while dealing effectively with limited FOVs and sensing ranges. Our novel formulation of the active perception problem provides necessary building blocks and components for allowing the robot to track areas of interest that could interchangeably assist mapping, monitoring, or localization tasks. Although the approach is initially targeted to multi-camera systems, we show that it could be readily adapted for heterogeneous configurations with other sensors such as sonars and LIDARs. Preliminary results in simulation showing the strong potential of the proposed technique, together with applications and future extensions of the method are discussed.