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Oceans

A resilient ocean sustains marine life and functioning ecosystems that support rich biodiversity, food security and sustainable livelihoods

Overview

Life began in the oceans. They are home to an estimated two million species, from the largest animal that has ever lived to the tiniest bacteria. Marine biodiversity far outweighs that on land. New species are found all the time, as scientists estimate that 91% of marine species have yet to be discovered, catalogued or described.

Covering 71% of our planet’s surface, oceans have shaped human history, culture and lives, and continue to do so. They are a life-support system for Earth and a global commons that provide us with free goods and services, from the food we eat to more than half of the oxygen we breathe. They are the foundation to the planetary water cycle that produces rain and snow; and are a source of food, feeding more than 1 billion people with their primary source of animal protein.

The oceans also regulate the global climate; mediate temperature, and drive the weather, determining rainfall, droughts and floods. They are the worlds’ largest store of carbon where an estimated 83% of the global carbon cycle is circulated through marine waters.

WWF’s oceans work focuses on healthy and resilient marine ecosystems that support abundant biodiversity, sustainable livelihoods, and thriving economies.

vibrant coral

95%

Oceans make up 95% of all the space available to life

US drilling plans spare Arctic’s federal waters

America’s Arctic will be free of new offshore oil and gas drilling, at least for the next five years, and that’s good news for people and wildlife. WWF and 225,000 of our activists opposed drilling in the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chuckchi seas due to the tremendous risk to indigenous communities, wildlife, and their environment.

Polar Bear Swimming

Why It Matters

  • A LIVING BLUE PLANET

    Oceans contain the greatest diversity of life on Earth, from the freezing polar regions to the warm waters of the tropics. Unfortunately, the biggest drivers of change in our oceans are the removal of living resources from the ocean; the conversion, loss, degradation and alteration of the physical habitats that make up the ocean ecosystem; and the many pollutants entering the ocean from a of myriad sources.

  • HEALTHY COMMUNITIES

    Oceans act as a life-support system for people around the world, providing us with free goods and services, from the food we eat to the oxygen we breathe. But oceans are downstream from everywhere on the planet, and are subject to the collective footprint of more than seven billion people. In the last four decades populations of marine mammals, birds, reptiles and fish have declined on average by half, with some dropping by nearly 75%.

  • CARBON SINKS

    Oceans are the world’s largest store of carbon, where an estimated 83% of the global carbon cycle is circulated through marine waters. The global climate and our oceans are responding to decades of increasing carbon emissions. There is no place on earth this is more evident than in the Arctic, where the effects of the changing climate are unprecedented. The most drastic result is the shrinking sea ice, where the Arctic Ocean is projected to be nearly ice-free in the summer by 2050. This impacts species that rely on the ecosystems that are both visible and invisible, but critical as a source of food and for breeding.

  • PROVIDING FOOD

    Fish and other seafood are a major source of protein for approximately a billion people. It’s crucial that we keep oceans safe and robust to help feed the planet. Overfishing, illegal fishing, bycatch, poor governance, and lack of monitoring and enforcement are challenging the health of the ocean, where species, as well as entire ecosystems are being lost. Globally, there has been a decline in the abundance of fish stocks, between 50-90% depending on species.

  • NURTURING MANGROVE ECOSYSTEMS

    Perhaps one of the most valuable habitats on the planet, mangroves provide important nurseries for a vast array of aquatic animal species. Loss of mangroves is estimated to be occurring at a rate five to ten times that of the loss of rainforest. Sea grasses and coral reefs, also incredibly productive and valuable, have seen similar losses and all face continuing threats.

  • CLEAN WATERS

    When oceans are clean and resilient, people and wildlife benefit. We’re facing an urgent challenge: An enormous loading of plastics is in our oceans with estimates of 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.

  • VIBRANT CORAL REEFS

    The intricate structures of coral reefs are the hubs of busy, biodiversity-rich ecosystems. But the continual absorption of CO2 is increasing acidity levels and changing the oceans’ basic chemistry, which is happening at a rate faster than it has over the past 65 million years.

What WWF Is Doing

Closing the Ocean Conservation Gap

WWF is working to secure a living ocean to achieve a vision where resilient oceans harbor living resources and functioning ecosystems that support rich biodiversity, food security and sustainable livelihoods. With a sharpened focus on sustainable fisheries and conservation of ocean habitats WWF will apply the power of ingenuity, harness partnerships, innovate technology, incentivize markets, measure our impact, advance resilience, and meet the global environmental changes we face today and into the future. WWF is uniquely placed to achieve these goals. With more than 500 marine experts working around the world WWF has extensive experience in ocean ecosystem monitoring and evaluation, fisheries science, sustainable seafood industry engagement, policy and advocacy, and economics and rights based management. With established partnerships and activities that reach into all of these areas, WWF will build on the trusted relationships directly with fishers, processors, distributors, retailers, multilateral and inter-governmental organizations, and governments.

scuba diving

Sustainable Fisheries

bait to plate scene share

Learn more how WWF is preventing illegally caught seafoodfrom entering our food chain.

WWF is working to expand the volume of wild fisheries that are sustainable, or actively working towards sustainability, and eliminate illegal fishing. By working with major trade actors, their supply chains and financiers, WWF will transform seafood markets globally, by reducing their environmental footprint and make conservation a core part of their business. WWF’s sustainable fisheries approach will work across the seafood supply chain to ensure 20% of the world’s wild capture fisheries are sustainable as measured by the marine stewardship council certification or equivalent; and illegal fish will be diminished by 50% in international trade through expanded governance, enforcement and market access controls. Underpinning success is the expertise and trusted relationships WWF has, to build political will and support through education and advocacy, public outreach, technical research, and furthering solutions through the public sector with technology and partnerships.

Arctic Conservation

Arctic Ice

WWF is working to conserve habitats in the Arctic, to establish oceans governance mechanisms that safeguard vulnerable marine ecosystems and support resilience. Our goals are to achieve adoption of a legally binding regional seas agreement by Arctic nations that protects vulnerable marine ecosystems important for future resilience; conserve critical areas are identified and receive permanent protections from offshore oil development and shipping; and advocate for the adoption of Arctic-specific rules that reduce pollution and accidents, and enhance ecosystem resilience to climate change. As an Observer in the Arctic Council, WWF will work to promote a protection and resilience agenda and communicate impacts of offshore development, shipping and climate change on Arctic wildlife, and landscapes, to build a strong US constituency.

Restoring Resilient Ecosystems

seagrass

The restoration of mangroves in key coastal ecosystems, such as salt marshes, corals, sea grasses is key to mitigating climate impacts and forms a key component of WWF’s approach to resilient ocean ecosystems. With a focus on research, this approach will advance our understanding of climate impacts and dynamics, and inform our conservation practice. Critical to the success of this work is power of partnerships, both within the WWF network and externally. For example, in the Coral Triangle WWF is working on mangrove biomass projections considering different climate scenarios in the Sunda Banda Seascape. Through a partnership approach WWF will share best practices, build and disseminate tools, and scale management and protection efforts in critical mangrove areas.

Innovating Ocean Solutions

ocean innovation

Underpinning WWF’s work to conserve ocean habitats is the development of a new platform to source, develop and accelerate innovations and technologies that address critical ocean conservation challenges, producing a "blue revolution" that creates impact. Working with Conservation X Labs and others, WWF is sourcing innovations for the ocean space, using a different avenues to catalyze, connect, amplify, and mobilize, to provide incubation for innovations that need support.

Projects

Experts

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