22 Apr 2015


A University of Queensland scientist has helped estimate the overall value of the ocean at US$24 trillion (AUD $31 trillion) to show what’s at risk without urgent conservation action.

The valuation is contained in a new WWF report, Reviving the Ocean Economy: The case for action – 2015, which analyses the ocean’s role as an economic powerhouse and outlines the threats moving it toward collapse.

Compared to the world’s top 10 economies, the ocean would rank seventh with an annual value of goods and services of US$2.5 trillion and an overall value as an asset of 10 times that.

The report, produced in association with The Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), is the most focused review yet of the ocean’s asset base.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Global Change Institute, was lead author.

“The ocean is at greater risk now than at any other time in recorded history. We are pulling out too many fish, dumping in too many pollutants, and warming and acidifying the ocean to a point that essential natural systems will simply stop functioning,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

By valuing goods and services ranging from fisheries to coastal storm protection, the report reveals the sea’s enormous wealth. But it also warns of an unrelenting assault on ocean resources through over-exploitation, misuse and climate change.

“The ocean rivals the wealth of the world’s richest countries, but it is being allowed to sink to the depths of a failed economy,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “As responsible shareholders, we cannot seriously expect to keep recklessly extracting the ocean’s valuable assets without investing in its future.”

According to the report, more than two-thirds of the annual value of the ocean relies on it being healthy. Collapsing fisheries, mangrove destruction, and disappearing corals and seagrass are threatening the marine economic engine that secures lives and livelihoods around the world.

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said the report sets out the economic case for ocean conservation.

“The Great Barrier Reef, which has lost half its coral, is a prime example. It generates $6 billion a year for the local economy and supports nearly 70,000 jobs. We have long argued that it makes economic sense for governments to lift their spending on the Reef in line with its value as an asset."

“While funding has improved it is nowhere near enough to halt the impact on the Reef from pollution and Australia must do more to combat climate change,” he said.

The ocean is changing more rapidly than at any other point in millions of years. Ninety per cent of global fish stocks are either over-exploited or fully exploited. Coral reefs that provide food, jobs and storm protection to several hundred million people could disappear completely by 2050 because of climate change.

But it is not too late to reverse these troubling trends and Reviving the Ocean Economy presents an eight-point action plan that would restore ocean resources to their full potential.

The most urgent solutions include embedding ocean recovery throughout the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, taking global action on climate change and making good on strong commitments to protect coastal and marine areas.

“The ocean feeds us, employs us, and supports our health and well-being, yet we are allowing it to collapse before our eyes. If everyday stories of the ocean’s failing health don’t inspire our leaders, perhaps a hard economic analysis will. We have serious work to do to protect the ocean starting with real global commitments on climate and sustainable development,” said Marco Lambertini.

WWF’s global ocean campaign, Sustain Our Seas, builds on decades of work by the organisation and its partners on marine conservation. WWF is working with governments, businesses and communities to encourage leaders to take urgent measures to revive the ocean economy and protect the lives and livelihoods of billions of people around the world.

WWF-Australia Media Contact: 

Daniel Rockett, National Media Manager