Ocean Habitat

Overview

Dhow sailing boat

Oceans contain the greatest diversity of life on Earth. From the freezing polar regions to the warm waters of the tropics and deep sea hydrothermal vents to shallow seagrass beds, marine organisms abound. Humans rely on the oceans for their important natural resources. Fishing is the principal livelihood for over 200 million people and provides the main source of protein for more than a billion.

Overexploitation of fish and other resources, destructive fishing, unregulated development, pollution and climate change are altering oceans in numerous ways. Human impacts can be found even in remote areas, such as the middle of the Pacific where plastic garbage accumulates. WWF works around the world to protect oceans and the variety of species and communities that depend on them.

Coastal community heroes

Coastal communities are the stewards of the ocean, and their livelihoods directly depend on its health. Six people living at the intersection of land and sea around the world tell us why they are so committed to the ocean and what it has brought to their lives.

Small woven houses sitting on top of a system of stilts out in clear blue water with a green boat anchored nearby

Why They Matter

  • Oceans supply fish and other seafood that forms a major source of protein for a billion people. They also provide seaweed and marine plants used for the manufacturing of food, chemicals, energy and construction materials.

  • The ocean’s surface layer absorbs about half of the heat that reaches the planet from the sun. By distributing this heat around the world, oceans have a profound impact on weather and climate. As humans have pumped more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, oceans have helped to buffer the effects of climate change by soaking up about half of that carbon. 

  • Ocean waves, winds and currents offer potential for sustainable energy supplies.

What WWF Is Doing

Boat with WWF staff

Sustainably Managing Fisheries

WWF works to end overfishing, addressing it at both a local and commercial level. Through collaboration with a variety of partners we strive to transform fisheries so that they are sustainable, have minimal impact and can provide food and livelihoods for years to come. We work with the fisheries industry to reduce bycatch of marine turtles, cetaceans and sharks and help develop and promote new technologies and gear. WWF continues to promote stronger enforcement against pirate fishing and destructive fishing (with dynamite and cyanide) and support mechanisms for full traceability of fisheries products.

Pacific bluefin tunas, Mexico

Establishing Marine Protected Areas

WWF is working to create a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in places like the Coral Triangle. WWF works to ensure MPAs are designed and managed well and that they benefit both people and nature. We also monitor the impacts of reserves on local communities.

Responsibly Farmed Seafood

WWF knows that when done responsibly, aquaculture’s impact on wild fish populations, marine habitats, water quality and society can be significantly and measurably reduced.WWF is committed to leading the farmed seafood industry toward efficiency and environmental sustainability. We are on the forefront of spreading awareness among aquaculture producers about the importance of responsible practices. WWF encourages large retailers and restaurant chains to adopt responsible seafood procurement policies that call for sourcing responsibly farmed seafood products.

Helping Communities Adapt to Climate Change

Replanting mangrove forests

WWF works with local communities, governments and others to help wildlife and people residing in coastal communities successfully adapt to and prepare for the impacts of climate change. We address water scarcity by collecting rainwater and promoting drought-resistant crops. In coastal areas we focus on mangrove restoration to buffer shorelines from storm erosion. We monitor coral reef health and try to protect them in order to build their resilience against bleaching events.

Promoting Ecotourism and Sustainable Development

Coral reef at Marine Park

In places like the Galápagos, WWF wants to ensure that tourism can be a tool for conservation and sustainable development. We help create tourism models that both support conservation and improve people’s livelihoods. We work on reducing the ecological footprint caused by the tourism industry and visitors. We also advocate for sustainable coastal development and protection of important marine places, such as Cabo Pulmo National Park in the Gulf of California. WWF works with governments, in places such as the Mesoamerican Reef, to ensure that future coastal management decisions minimize impacts on reefs, mangroves and fisheries and incorporate sustainable use of marine resources.

Advocating for Responsible Oil and Gas Development

WWF advocates for responsible development in areas where oil and gas may occur, particularly in sensitive areas such as the Arctic. If development does transpire, WWF wants to ensure it is done as safely and responsibly as possible. Within targeted oil development sites, we identify areas in need of protection, such as those important for wildlife and indigenous people and communities. WWF also advocates for tighter standards for oil spill response in places such as the Arctic.

Projects

  • Smartphone technology improves the quality and quantity of fisheries data in Chile

    Around the world, WWF is taking advantage of smartphone technology—an efficient, reliable, and cost-effective way to collect data—to improve the quality and quantity of fisheries information.

  • Universal Standards for Seafood Traceability

    The ocean provides a bounty of seafood, supporting hundreds of millions of jobs and feeding billions of people. But roughly a quarter of the fish caught globally is done illegally in the shadows, fueling a black market that exploits wildlife, people, and blind spots in enforcement of laws. A lack of transparency allows rogue vessels and criminal networks to operate undetected and profit off stolen fish, taking money out of the pockets of people who follow the rules and contributing to declines in ocean health. Ending this black-market trade of seafood is good for nature and people but will require an array of proven tools working in tandem, chief among them is traceability.

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Experts