Land & Water Stories

Conserving Our Ocean

The ocean’s future is our future. We must relieve the pressure on the ocean so it can continue to sustain us.

A split-shot at the water's surface with clear skies above and dozens of silver medium-sized porgy fish swimming through clear blue water.
Sea bream at surface A school of sea bream, also known as porgy, gather near the water's surface off of Sardinia, Italy. © Lorenzo Ragazzi/TNC Photo Contest 2022

Why is the ocean so important?

Covering more than 70% of Earth’s surface, the ocean plays an essential role in each of our lives, no matter where we live. The ocean is the heart of our planet, pumping oxygen, nutrients, water and weather around the globe. This constant circulation directly and indirectly provides the food and water we need to live and forms the backbone of our economies.

Stats out of the Blue

  • people with heart symbols on their chests


    Half of the oxygen we breathe comes from the natural processes of ocean plankton. That’s every other breath.

  • Cloud with CO2 label for carbon dioxide


    Since the Industrial Revolution, the ocean has absorbed about 90% of the excess heat in our atmosphere.

  • two fish

    3 B

    More than 3 billion people depend on fish and other ocean species for food and income.

  • sea turtle


    Only 8% of the ocean is legally protected.

aerial view of beachgoers with colorful umbrellas on a beach on the ocean
Beach in Rio de Janeiro Beachgoers enjoy the sand and surf at a beach in Leblon, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © Marcelo da Silva/TNC Photo Contest 2023

9 Reasons to Thank the Ocean

There’s more than just fish in the sea! Explore what else the ocean provides, from crucial medicines to inspiration for music and dance.

Read: 9 Ways You Depend on a Healthy Ocean

× aerial view of beachgoers with colorful umbrellas on a beach on the ocean

The ocean: our greatest climate ally

The ocean’s coral reefs and oyster beds shelter marine life and protect our shores by breaking up wave energy and storm surges.

On the edges of the ocean, coastal wetlands—such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows—protect our shores, too. They also draw in carbon as they grow and transfer it into their leaves, stems and the rich soils held by their roots.

This “blue carbon” can remain in the soil for thousands of years. In fact, coastal wetlands store five times more carbon per hectare than rainforests, helping to limit further climate change.

A short explainer on Blue Carbon

Take a Two-Minute Deep Dive

What’s blue carbon? (2:10) Parts of the ocean are climate superheroes. Coastal habitats—like salt marshes, seagrasses and mangroves—can store 5-10 times more carbon per acre than forests on land. Using their roots, these wetlands trap carbon on the ocean floor, sometimes for thousands of years.

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Acting for the ocean

Though the ocean is one of our greatest allies against climate change, absorbing most of the excess heat and carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, it’s been paying a steep price.

Warming, acidification, overfishing and pollution increasingly threaten the ocean’s ability to sustain us, as our demands on it—for food, energy and water—continue to mount.

The stakes have never been higher. That’s why TNC is supporting the world’s goal to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030.

To contribute to that goal by 2030, we intend to conserve 4 billion hectares—that’s more than 10% of the world’s ocean area—while working with communities on solutions that help protect 100 million people at severe risk of climate-related emergencies.

Learn more about our 2030 goals and how you can get involved.

Our Ocean Strategies

Click the tiles for details on our top ocean conservation strategies and real examples of our work around the world.

The People Working to Save Corals

Hope for Coral Reef Protection (4:48) Coral reefs only cover 1% of the ocean floor, but they support 25% of all marine life. Explore the effort to protect and restore them.