The global ocean – the Earth’s oceanic waters, including the Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Southern oceans – supplies more than half the oxygen we breathe, and provides food and livelihoods for billions of people worldwide. It is also home to a wondrous array of wild species, from tiny plankton to the biggest creature that’s ever existed – the blue whale.
But our ocean is in crisis.
Centuries of overuse and neglect threaten to leave us with a vast blue wasteland. It’s time to change the way we see our ocean – from places where we take what we want and dump what we don’t, to a shared resource of immense value. We must take action now to restore ocean health while the solutions are still within our grasp.
The ocean may seem vast and indestructible, but the truth is it is in serious trouble.
We’ve already lost half our coral reefs and mangroves − some of the most productive habitats on Earth. And we’ve pushed many crucial fish stocks to the point of collapse, threatening people’s livelihoods and food security – and harming other species including seabirds, turtles and dolphins.
The problems are most acute in coastal areas – home to some of the most valuable natural resources but also more densely populated by people than anywhere else on Earth. Coastal communities are increasingly vulnerable to erosion, storm damage and food shortages as reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds are lost.
Pollution – from plastics to oil spills to agrochemicals – also harms nature and contaminates food chains. And climate change is making the ocean hotter and more acidic, which will spell disaster if left unchecked.
"The crisis for the ocean is a crisis for humanity. Only a healthy ocean can keep the climate in balance, feed the planet, drive economic growth and shelter treasured wildlife."
- John Tanzer, Ocean Team Leader
The extraordinary diversity of life in the ocean, the services they provide to us, and the joy and wonder they inspire, are priceless. But the ocean also has a massive economic value.
At a conservative estimate, the goods and services the ocean provides – from fishing to tourism and coastal protection – are worth at least US$2.5 trillion per year. That would make the ocean the world’s seventh-largest economy. The ocean is an engine of economic development – but only if we manage it sustainably.
We have the tools to restore ocean health. Science-based management plans and marine protected areas can keep fish stocks healthy and support livelihoods the world over. These also safeguard vibrant habitats that draw tourists and create jobs. Protecting the ocean pays huge dividends.
People are at the heart of our ocean conservation work. We have decades of experience working with communities from the Arctic to the islands of the Pacific, and every seascape in between. We support community-led efforts to protect critical marine resources, promote sustainable fishing practices, collect fisheries data and share practical management strategies.
WWF challenges governments, businesses and development institutions to end damaging activities and subsidies, and invest instead in a sustainable “blue” economy. One of our top priorities is making fisheries sustainable – keeping healthy populations of fish in the sea, and minimizing impacts on habitats and other species.
We support initiatives to secure and restore critical coastal environments like coral reefs and mangroves, as well as protect wildlife like sharks and rays, which play an important role in marine ecosystems. And we’re part of a massive global effort to end plastic pollution, a threat to people and wildlife – focusing on key industries and major cities.
Our experts from around the world work with partners and communities to deliver conservation solutions for a healthy ocean. Leading the team – called the WWF Ocean Practice – is John Tanzer, who served for over a decade as executive director of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and has held advisory positions for institutions like the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.
Our goal is to ensure the world’s most important fisheries and ocean ecosystems are productive and resilient, and to improve livelihoods and biodiversity.