Five Priorities for a Sustainable Ocean Economy

Five Priorities for a Sustainable Ocean Economy

Unleash the ocean’s potential to boost economies sustainably while addressing climate change, food security and biodiversity.

Nature, 2020

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Oceans cover most of Earth. They also offer trillions of dollars’ worth of benefits to humans, from protein-rich foods to carbon sequestration. Their ability to do so, however, is hampered by overfishing, habitat destruction and more. A coalition of 14 countries proposes to protect oceans while boosting their benefits with a five-point plan that includes advancing sustainable seafood, enhancing oceans’ ability to mitigate climate change and protecting biodiversity. They propose applying pandemic recovery funding to boosting oceans’ benefits, and coordinating activities for maximum impact.


Oceans help keep people and Earth healthy – and provide economic benefits.

Oceans provide value to humans in many ways. They absorb carbon dioxide, reducing the threat of climate change. They provide homes to an abundance of species, some of which provide food and raw materials for medicines. They offer an abundant supply of high-protein food. Researchers estimate that protecting 30% of the world’s oceans could provide 20% of the atmospheric greenhouse gas reduction needed to achieve the Paris climate accord’s 1.5 °C [2.7 °F] warming limit.

If managed well, oceans also could produce 40 times the renewable energy generation of 2018, six times more sustainable seafood and 12 million jobs. This would provide US$15....

About the Authors

Jane Lubchenco is distinguished university professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, Oregon State University. Peter Haugan is program director at the Institute of Marine Research, Bergen. Mari Elka Pangestu is managing director of Development Policy and Partnerships at the World Bank, Washington, DC. They are co-chairs of the expert group of scientists convened by the Ocean Panel.

More on this topic

WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019
Deep-Sea Dilemma
Explainer: Nine ‘Tipping Points’ that Could Be Triggered by Climate Change
Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience
Should We Fertilize Oceans or Seed Clouds? No One Knows.
Our Final Warning

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