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Oceans

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

Overview

vibrant coral

$2.5

Trillion

Economic benefits generated by the ocean per year

Our living planet is only as healthy as its oceans. These vast bodies of water cover more than two-thirds of Earth’s surface and are home to some of our most spectacular and treasured life. Oceans regulate our climate, produce half the oxygen we breathe, fuel the water cycle that produces rain and freshwater, sustain the livelihoods of millions, and provide nourishment for nearly 3 billion people.

But today the ocean’s reserves are overdrawn, threatening countless communities around the world with climate, economic, and food insecurities. Unsustainable development, fueled by human population growth, has weakened ocean ecosystems. Modern technology is accelerating the rate of change.

WWF is working collaboratively on the brightest conservation ideas that focus on building a more resilient ocean through sustainable fishing practices and protecting important regions, like the Arctic and threatened mangrove forests.

The problems we face go well beyond borders and so does our work. WWF is uniquely positioned to activate a global network of experts and activists to confront the world’s most pressing ocean conservation challenges.

Belize’s incredible barrier reef is removed from UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger

Thanks to a series of conservation measures enacted by Belize’s government, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System has been removed from the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger sites. 

Fish and coral. Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Ambergris caye, Belize, Central America.

Why It Matters

  • Climate Change

    Our oceans have absorbed most of the planet’s warming—over 90%—and a significant amount of our carbon pollution. Warmer oceans are driving stronger storms and bleaching coral reefs. As oceans absorb carbon dioxide, they become more acidic, threatening most shelled organisms, including small crustaceans fundamental to the marine food chain.

  • Sustainable Livelihoods

    The world’s oceans are a lifeline for people around the world, generating at least $2.5 trillion worth of products and services each year. Fishing alone supports more than 260 million jobs. Only a healthy ocean can keep this economic engine running.

  • Food Security

    Seafood is the major source of protein for roughly a billion people. But according to the UN Food & Agriculture Organization, about 90% of assessed wild fish populations have been harvested to their limit and cannot handle the pressure that would come from adding more boats, nets, or poles. There are also regions with little enforcement of rules where the most destructive fishing practices continue to damage habitats and ecosystems, as well as the marine life that call them home.

  • Marine Life

    Scientists estimate more than 2 million species live in ocean waters and nine out of 10 haven’t been fully identified. The Marine Living Planet Index recorded a 36% overall decline in the abundance of marine life between 1970 and 2012. Unsustainable fishing is the primary direct threat to marine population, followed by habitat changes, which can also include a loss of food sources.

What WWF Is Doing

Developing New Technology for Sustainable Oceans

One idea can alter a trajectory, and we need many new ideas to alter our current path. But these breakthroughs don’t always emerge from those experts deep in a field—new thinking, expertise, and vantage points are often needed.

Oceans X Labs, a joint initiative of Conservation X Labs and WWF, is matching big ideas with the brightest minds in search of solutions to the global challenges of oceans conservation.

Together we’re building an online community for people to share ideas, collaborate, and invent technology that could help keep our oceans healthy.

ocean innovation

Increasing sustainable fishing

To keep oceans healthy, we must fully understand the science of diverse fisheries and build management systems to control when, where, how, and how much people fish. 

WWF is working with fishers, fishing companies and scientists around the globe to understand and meet sustainability standards. We then connect those sustainable seafood producers with partners in preferred markets, linking fishermen directly with major seafood buyers in retail, food service, and manufacturing who want to support sustainable fishing. This creates financial incentive to invest in long-term sustainability.

At the same time, we work to stop criminals from stealing from legal fisheries, which renders good management much less effective. WWF works with partners worldwide to close borders in the major seafood importing countries to illegally and unsustainably harvested seafood through government regulatory and voluntary private sector actions.

Connecting communities with the tools to empower local control of resources helps to secure a sustainable future for their fisheries. WWF is leading projects in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean to help small-scale fishers secure access and tenure rights, adopt best practices, and use technology to improve reporting and transparency.

Rebuilding Resilient Coastal Ecosystems

seagrass

Where land meets sea is often a place of spectacular biodiversity and ecological beauty. Coastal ecosystems from coral reefs to mangrove ecosystems also provide numerous ecosystem services to people and nature. Unfortunately, much of these coastal systems have been lost or degraded, and what’s left is under serious pressure.

Mangrove forests protect coastlines and communities from sea level rise and intense storms, while also housing many nurseries of the sea where fish spawn. But we’re losing them fast. WWF is a founding member of the Global Mangrove Alliance, working with organizations around the world toward the goal of expanding the extent of mangrove cover around the world 20% by the year 2030. This collaboration will share and expand best practices, build and disseminate new tools, and secure investments and policy support to improve management and protection efforts. 

WWF is also using the best available science to make sure it’s informing conservation work at the local, regional, and global scales.

Safeguarding the Arctic

Melting ice along the Bering Strait

Today, the Arctic is experiencing rapid and dramatic transformation, driven largely by a warming climate. Warming is occurring faster here than anywhere on the planet, making it a priority region for our work.

WWF has been on-the-ground for 25 years in the Arctic, collaborating with local communities and experts in science, policy, and planning. We work to strengthen Arctic-wide governance, advance climate-smart, sustainable development, and secure permanent protection for ecologically critical areas.

In addition to promoting good stewardship of some of the richest and most biologically diverse areas of the US Arctic, such as the Bering Strait and Bristol Bay, WWF is working through the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum made up of the eight Arctic nations, to protect wildlife and subsistence harvesting by securing inter-connected and well-managed protected areas throughout the Arctic. This work is greatly aided by WWF being the only circumpolar conservation organization with staff on the ground in seven of the eight Arctic nations.

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