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Sustainably managing global marine ecosystems—the vast majority of which are stressed and in danger of collapse due to overfishing, pollution, and rising water temperatures—is critical to livelihoods and preserving the earth’s natural resources.

Ocean ecosystems can thrive only if marine species and environments are protected and preserved, and human-caused damage is limited and repaired. Addressing marine health requires responsible management by communities that depend on the ocean for their livelihoods.

Size/Magnitude of Problem

Today, the vast majority of global marine ecosystems are stressed and in danger of collapse due to overfishing, pollution, and rising water temperatures. iv Illegal and unregulated fishing practices diminish the ability of coastal habitats to replenish themselves and lead to reduced ecological diversity. Unprecedented growth in seafood demand across the developed and emerging world (e.g. China) raises concerns about whether future supply will be able to meet demand.

  • Human-driven carbon emissions (nearly half of which are absorbed by the oceans) and pollution are increasing the temperature and acidification of the oceans to a level that makes life challenging for many marine species.vvi
  • Total world seafood demand for the next five years is expected to outstrip supply by 160 million tons, perpetuating the large-scale depletion of global stocks.vii
  • The ocean generates hundreds of millions of jobs and produces at least $2.5 trillion worth of goods and services annually.viii About 25% of the world’s poor depend on small-scale fisheries to maintain an affordable food source and keep their livelihoods.ix
Desired Equilibrium

Coastal communities are empowered to practice effective marine conservation, improving living standards through increased local incomes and food security. Actors across the value chain (producers, consumers, retailers) have incentive to promote transparency in sustainable fishing practices, enabling greater enforcement of protected ecosystems that reverse marine biodiversity loss and ultimately build socio-ecological resilience to climate change.

Ways Skoll social entrepreneurs are addressing the issue:
  • Empowering and developing capacity of coastal communities to establish and support protected local marine ecosystems (Blue Ventures, Telapak)
  • Working directly with fisheries, retailers, other value chain actors, consumers, and conservationists to set credible standards for environmentally sustainable fishing practices and responsible supply chains (Marine Stewardship Council, Fair Trade USA)

i Ocean Health Index (link)
ii Ocean Health Index (link)
iii Ocean Health Index (link)
iv Marine Stewardship Council
v New York Times (link)
vi The Guardian (link)
vii Conservation for the Oceans Foundation (link)
viii WWF / BCG Report – Reviving the Ocean Economy (link)
ix Protect Planet Ocean (link)

Critical Geographies
Coastal Livelihoods & Economiesi

As defined by OHI (< 50/100 score)
Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, East Timor, Falkland Islands, Samoa, Philippines, French Guiana, Cook Islands

Sustainable Food Provisionii

As defined by OHI (< 10/100 score)
Haiti, Myanmar, Guyana, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Jordan, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Cambodia, Suriname, Vietnam, South Korea

Coastal Protectioniii

As defined by OHI (≤ 20/100 score)
Belize, Nicaragua, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Sierra, Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Lithuania