Oceans | WWF


Whether our homes are near or far from the oceans, our lives depend on them.

Oceans supply half the oxygen we breathe, and provide food and livelihoods for more  than a billion people. They are 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 oceans are 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 oceans – from places where we take what we want and dump what we don’t, to a shared resource of immense value and fragility.

'The crisis for the ocean is a crisis for humanity. There are solutions and momentum is building - the scale requires active collaboration from all sectors - business, science, community, government.'

John Tanzer 
Ocean Practice Leader 

© Frédéric Monnot

Our oceans in crisis

The oceans may seem endless, inexhaustible and indestructible but the truth is they are 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.
Coastal areas are more densely populated than anywhere else on Earth and are where some of the most valuable natural resources are found. So it’s no surprise this is where the problems are most acute. And the loss of reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds leaves coastal communities vulnerable to erosion, storm damage and food shortages.
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 could spell disaster for coral reefs, polar regions and the rich variety of life they support.

The oceans may seem endless, inexhaustible and indestructible but the truth is they are in serious trouble.

© WWF / Troy Mayne
Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) with a plastic bag, Moore Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
© WWF / Troy Mayne

An ocean of opportunity

The extraordinary diversity of life in the oceans, the services they provide to us, and the joy and wonder they inspire, are priceless. But oceans also have a massive economic value.
At a conservative estimate, the goods and services the oceans provide – from fishing to tourism and coastal protection – are worth at least US$2.5 trillion per year. That would make the oceans the world’s seventh largest economy. And they could play an even bigger role in supporting people in developing countries – but only if we use them sustainably.

Protecting the oceans pays huge dividends – and we know they can often bounce back. We’ve seen fish stocks recover thanks to better management, while marine protected areas have created jobs and boosted tourism by reviving nature. 

What WWF is doing

We’re working with everyone from fishing communities to heads of state to unleash a wave of support for our oceans.
By highlighting the importance of healthy oceans, we’re working with communities, governments, businesses - including the finance industry - to end support for damaging activities and invest in creating a healthy marine environment.
We’re protecting and restoring critical coastal environments like coral reefs and mangroves. And we’re launching a massive global effort to end plastic pollution, focusing on key industries and major cities.
Another top priority is making fisheries sustainable – keeping enough fish in the sea, and minimizing impacts on habitats and other species. And we’re supporting coastal communities – particularly in developing countries – to manage their marine resources, and using our influence with industry, governments, retailers and consumers to make a real difference.
Local fishermen with tuna catch Sulu Sea, Philippines

© Jürgen FREUND / WWF

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