A resilient ocean sustains marine life and functioning ecosystems that support rich biodiversity, food security and sustainable livelihoods
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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
- Brad Ack Senior Vice President, Oceans
- Michele Kuruc Vice President, Ocean Policy
- Leigh Henry Senior Policy Advisor, Wildlife Conservation
- Margaret Williams Managing Director, Arctic Program
- Lauren Spurrier Managing Director, Oceans
- Bill Fox Vice President, Fisheries
- Elisabeth Kruger Program Officer, Arctic and Bering Sea