Ocean Sustainability

As we celebrate World Ocean Day this year (June 8) we are reminded of the global importance of the ocean, which provides and supports the livelihood of 3 billion people annually according to the UN. This essential resource is a major key for our sustainable future and recognized as an SDG goal; so how are we currently approaching ocean sustainability?

It first starts by understanding how our human activities affect the marine fauna and flora, and how those effects loop back to us. Using complex frameworks like the Social-Ecological-Environmental Systems (SEES) approach allows academic researchers to build a multidimensional and interdisciplinary understanding of ocean changes through time. The SEES framework is often coupled with more specific research and the creation of new methodologies to accurately measure intricate qualifiers, like a city’s resilience. Such observations and results are in turn used to potentially create large-scale, transdisciplinary projects to protect ocean ecosystems from constant human pressure, use the ocean as a reliable form of energy, and build sustainable ‘green’ cities. 

In addition to university-based research, organizations like the OECD also lead a few initiatives like the Sustainable Ocean for All, which dives into the economical aspects of ocean sustainability. Their insights provide policy-makers with strategies for responsible management of the ocean, economically and ecologically, in order to support the growth of developing countries. 

Beyond the research, ocean sustainability is driven by several movements and awareness campaigns. Ocean Panel, for example, is a high level panel specifically geared toward supporting world leaders creating policies for a sustainable ocean economy. Gathering multiple countries across the world under the promise to “put forward a new ocean action agenda underpinned by the aim to sustainably manage 100% of the ocean area under national jurisdiction”, the organization collaborates not only with governments but also with businesses, financial institutions and scientists. Among their work can be found the “Transformations”,  a set of recommended actions aimed at prioritizing ocean well-being in ways that still carry benefits for the people.

There is also, of course, the UN’s SDG efforts combining governmental and individual actions. As for individual impact, their mobile app on behalf of the ‘ActNow’ campaign lets citizens visualize their habits through tracking, encouraging more sustainable habits (including water management) and offering educational content. 

Although some initiatives aim at helping people shift into more sustainable lifestyles, the broader ocean sustainability efforts do not put the onus of responsibility on individuals. Institutions causing the largest impacts on the ocean remain the targets of these movements, as we can find with World Ocean Day’s very own initiative. 30×30 is a conservation-focused call to action for our world leaders to commit to “protect at least 30% of our lands, waters, and ocean by 2030 (30×30)”. Ocean sustainability needs to be actively enacted at the national level for every country, and the World Ocean Day organization champions this idea. 

You can sign the 30×30 petition here


  1. https://www.oecd.org/environment/sustainable-ocean-for-all-bede6513-en.htm
  2. https://www.oceanpanel.org/
  3. https://www.futurelearn.com/info/blog/ocean-sustainability
  4. https://ocean.gatech.edu/research/ocean-sustainability
  5. https://www.un.org/en/actnow

Leave a Reply