The ocean is a life source. It sustains us, stabilises the climate, and leads to greater prosperity. A healthy ocean is essential for everyone. The ocean covers 70% of Earth and helps transport 90% of traded goods.
The ocean provides oxygen, food and medicine. It’s the source of recreation, discovery, identity and culture.
- More than 3 billion people rely on food from the ocean as a source of protein and nutrition.
Stabilises the climate.
It absorbs carbon dioxide and heat.
- The ocean absorbs 93% of heat caused by human activity globally.
- About 25% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from human activities are absorbed by the ocean.
Leads to greater prosperity.
The ocean is an engine of livelihoods, transport, commerce, and energy production.
- A healthy ocean contributes $1.5 trillion to the global economy annually and has an estimated net asset value of $24 trillion.
- The ocean is the source of millions of jobs in fishing, tourism, transportation, and it powers economic growth.
Key Facts About the Ocean
of the Earth's oxygen
of all CO2 emissions
of the additional heat generated from those emissions
of the Earth's surface
biosphere on the Planet
Home to 50-80%
of all life on Earth
The Ocean’s Health Is Off Track
The ocean is under intense and growing pressure from plastic pollution and other pollutants, overfishing, habitat and biodiversity loss, and climate change. A degraded ocean has vast repercussions not just for ocean life, but for communities everywhere, for jobs and livelihoods—and our very existence.
Declining ocean health could also cost the global economy more than $400 billion annually by 2050. This could reach $2 trillion annually by 2100.
Challenges and Threats
Our ocean is in trouble. Once considered vast and inexhaustible, today it faces threats and limits to growth that were not even imagined a decade ago.
Current trends threaten both the environmental health and the economic vitality of the ocean. Overfishing, marine pollution, acidification and rising ocean temperatures are negatively impacting important industries including fishing and tourism, as well as the ability of coastal communities to thrive, and small island and developing states to sustainably develop.
We cannot afford to continue along the current “business-as-usual” trajectory. New governance, policy and market approaches are required that allow profitability and sustainability to operate together for the benefit of people and the planet.
- Fishing has become the number one driver of extinction risk for marine vertebrates (excluding birds). If overfishing continues, annual yield is projected to fall by around 16 percent by 2050, threatening global food security.
- Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is estimated to account for 20% of the world’s catch, rising to 50% in some areas.
- The biodiversity of the open ocean declined by up to 50 percent over the past 50 years.
- Acidification and ocean warming are causing widespread death of coral reefs. Moreover, unabated climate change could cause coral reef tourism revenue losses of over 90%, while some West African countries are forecast to see fish stocks decline by 85%.
- Without action, the annual flow of plastic into the ocean will nearly triple by 2040, to 29 million metric tons per year.
The Ocean Is a Solution
It’s time to shift from thinking of the ocean as a victim to seeing it as an essential part of solving global challenges. We do not have to choose between ocean protection and production. We can have both for a healthy, prosperous future.
Recent research finds:
The ocean is a smart investment that will deliver social, health, economic and environmental benefits. For every $1 invested in healthy ocean action, there is a $5 return in benefits.
The ocean can improve food security. With better management and technological innovation, the ocean could sustainably provide over 6 times more food than it does today by 2050. This represents more than two-thirds of the animal protein needed to feed the world’s population.
The ocean can contribute a fifth of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions (21%) needed to meet the Paris Agreement climate goals by 2050. That’s equivalent to taking over 2.5 billion cars off the road each year.
As the world looks to recover from COVID-19 and the economic fallout, the ocean can bring economic relief and make communities stronger and healthier. Learn more about opportunities for a blue recovery.
The evidence is clear. We need to stop illegal fishing and overfishing. We need to decarbonise shipping. We need to manage ocean acidification. We need to turn off ocean pollution at the tap and eliminate plastic pollution. And much more.
Hope Is on the Horizon
Building a sustainable ocean economy is one of the most important tasks and greatest opportunities of our time. Governments, industries, stakeholders and experts are joining forces to develop and implement ocean solutions around the world, but we need to go further, move faster, and ensure that our actions balance the needs of people, planet and prosperity.