Oceans

Healthy oceans that benefit the planet, people, prosperity, and peace

Overview

We are united around four common beliefs: when oceans thrive, the planet regains its natural strength and flourishes; when oceans thrive, coastal communities are achieving their food and livelihood security; when oceans thrive, societies are prosperous, with nature-based solutions protecting billions of dollars in physical societal infrastructure; and when oceans thrive, the world is more peaceful.

boys in a boat

The oceans inspire and offer hope—for nature and people worldwide. Oceans are therefore worth protecting, restoring, and nurturing.

At WWF, we believe that healthy oceans benefit the planet, people, prosperity, and peace.

We take an integrated approach to our oceans, combining place-based conservation work to create Nature-Positive Seascapes with global scale Markets and Blue Finance initiatives. And under Ocean Futures we incubate, develop, and launch new innovative programs at the intersection of climate change, ocean health, and peace and security.

Our 2030 impact targets are audacious because the times call for it:

Planet: halt, recover and grow ecosystems and marine resources in the places where we work

People: deliver resilient food and livelihood security for 100 million people

Prosperity: protect billions in economic infrastructure through nature-based solutions

Peace: reduce conflict, crime, and societal instability via effective marine natural resource management

How reducing conflict at sea can advance ocean conservation

WWF wants to create healthy oceans that benefit the planet, people, prosperity, and peace. Advancing peace through ocean conservation is the focus of our newest program, Oceans Futures.

Dense school of brown striped snapper swims in a tight circle looking from the ocean floor up

Why It Matters

  • When oceans thrive, the planet regains its natural strength and flourishes

    Healthy oceans and the marine species living in them provide natural at-scale solutions to climate adaptation and resilience—and they absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide. Oceans fuel the water cycles that produce rain and freshwater and create oxygen. And oceans are foundational to spectacular ecosystems and biodiversity, including treasured marine wildlife such as whales, sharks, polar bears, and turtles.

  • When oceans thrive, people thrive

    Where ocean ecosystems are resilient and productive, so are coastal communities. Researchers looking at more than 100 studies to better understand the connection between marine conservation and human health found that most people in the world depend on ocean health for food, health, and economic benefits.

  • When oceans thrive, societies are prosperous

    Oceans play a vital role in many of our shared faiths and cultures. They also play a critical role in our economies. Nature-based solutions protect billions of dollars in physical infrastructure and the value of key ocean assets is conservatively estimated to be at least $24 trillion. A rapidly growing ocean economy promises a new era of sustainable economic development as sectors including seafood production, coastal development, shipping, and renewable energy can revolutionize the well-being of communities and countries everywhere.

  • When oceans thrive, the world is more peaceful

    The ocean feeds billions of people, delivers hundreds of millions of jobs, and provides safety and security to millions of individuals and communities vulnerable to the threat of climate change and natural disasters. Unhealthy oceans further conflict, crime, and societal unrest. But healthy oceans provide an enabling environment for peaceful and well-functioning societies.

What WWF Is Doing

Measuring our impact

Reaching a nature-positive future means planning strategically, tracking our work, and learning from our experiences.

WWF uses SMART targets (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) to measure impact within a seascape.

We've developed and launched an overarching monitoring, evaluation, learning (MEL) framework that can help guide local to global monitoring across seascapes to assess progress, outcomes, and impacts of interventions on ecosystems (habitats, species, fisheries), people, prosperity, and peace. This includes the identification of performance indicators, guidance on methodologies, and mapping of data flows.

The MEL framework establishes a learning agenda, including key learning questions, audience and decision mapping, and criteria for ecological, social, and governance monitoring. We also measure and monitor our progress leveraging previously identified ecological and social baselines or creating our own with specific focus on our priority interventions.

We take the long view, designing interventions to be financially sustainable, sufficiently managed, and climate smart.

Three WWF Mozambique staff in the mangroves on a boat patrol near Palma, Mozambique, Africa.

Nature-positive seascapes

Our team works to deliver nature-positive seascapes—halting the decline of marine environments and regenerating target ecosystems and marine resources.

Our place-based conservation work in seascapes takes an integrated, holistic approach that benefits local communities, global populations. We start with a science-based approach to seascape selection, design, and management. We develop specific, measurable targets within a seascape and use an overarching monitoring, evaluation, and learning framework to assess the impacts of the interventions on the planet, people, prosperity, and peace.

Through a partnership mindset, our nature-based solutions drive climate adaptation and resilience, food and livelihood security, peace and security, and healthy oceans outcomes globally.

We focus on enhancing the well-being of people and nature through inclusive, durable, and resilient systems of effective conservation areas, carefully evaluating the rights and needs of indigenous people and local communities and relying on their guidance to determine what conservation area approach is the most relevant.

To achieve financial sustainability, we partner with WWF’s Earth for Life, Enduring Earth, and other partners, to support the design and delivery of marine Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) initiatives. We will also work with public finance bodies, such as the GEF and GCF, to continue to make the case for why investing in nature-positive seascapes contributes to global nature and climate goals.

Oceans markets and finance

Our markets and finance work combines nature-positive business with innovative blue financing to deliver scalable, durable global oceans solutions, as well as support our nature-positive seascape work.

Nature-positive business supports the private sector in better addressing their environmental and social footprints, bringing forth green and blue infrastructure solutions, and establishing long-term investments in the seascapes where they do business. Our focus sectors are seafood, coastal development, marine renewables, and shipping. In the seafood sector alone, WWF has built more than 80 partnerships with companies that have made sustainable seafood purchasing commitments, touching more than 600 fisheries around the world.

On innovative blue financing, we work to influence and engage financial market actors using a strong case for action to shift capital away from harmful activities within key blue economy sectors—including fishing, aquaculture, shipping, marine renewables, and coastal development—and towards sustainable blue economy pathways, minimizing value at risk and strengthening environmental, social, and economic resilience. We will directly engage financial institutions—particularly banks, investors, and insurance companies—who strongly influence and drive systemic behavior change. We will harness our deep knowledge of solutions to influence and catalyze how venture capital and angel investors support new blue businesses that fill key market gaps and are moving in a direction compatible with a climate and nature-positive future.

Oceans futures

The nexus of oceans, geopolitical tensions, conflict, crime, and societal instability is on the rise. A robust ocean conservation agenda must therefore include natural resource conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and law enforcement capacity building. Under Oceans Futures, WWF will offer predictive analytics, early warning, and strategic planning, and preventive conservation solutions to prevent conflict over marine resources. We will also partner and support with global maritime security and enforcement organizations to build a science-driven and networked approach to unsustainable marine resource extraction.

Projects

  • Stopping Ghost Gear

    Fishing feeds billions of people and is vital to the economies of countless coastal communities. But unsustainable practices litter the ocean with deadly traps that needlessly kill marine mammals, turtles, and seabirds.

    Abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear, commonly referred to as ghost gear, contribute significantly to the problem of plastic pollution in our ocean. These gillnets, traps, and other types of fishing gear are particularly harmful because they can continue to catch target and non-target species indiscriminately for years. This impacts important food resources as well as endangered species. Because of this, ghost gear has been coined as the most deadly form of marine plastic debris, damaging vital ocean habitats, aquatic life, and livelihoods.

  • 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 gaps 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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