Marine and Polar

The ocean covers 70% of the Earth’s surface and supports an extraordinarily diverse world. Only a fraction of it has been discovered so far and much of ocean life remains a mystery which IUCN experts are striving to unveil.  


Oceans need our care



375 billion

US $ each year estimated for coral's resources and services


12 million+

tons of plastic end up in oceans each year

Protected areas


of the ocean is protected

How we engage

IUCN works to ensure that coastal, marine and polar ecosystems are restored and maintained, and that any use of their resources is sustainable and equitable. IUCN also makes sure that the conservation of these ecosystems is integrated into national climate change mitigation and adaptation policies.

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  • In the spotlight:

    Marine News Magazine Issue 15 is out!

    We are pleased to circulate the latest edition of Marine News magazine; a 64-page review of all the activities on marine and coastal conservation happening across the Union, with spectacular images of this work happening around the globe. 

  • In the spotlight:

    Ocean deoxygenation

    In December 2019, IUCN released the largest peer-reviewed study conducted so far on ocean deoxygenation, featuring the work of 67 scientific experts from 51 institutes.  Driven by eutrophication as a result of nutrient run-off from land and deposition of nitrogen from the burning of fossil fuels, deoxygenation is expected to impact a wide range of marine organisms and alter the balance of life in the oceans. The report serves as the ultimate wake-up call needed to dramatically raise our ambitions and immediately curb our emissions of carbon dioxide and other powerful greenhouse gases.

  • In the spotlight:

    Ocean Risk Report

    May 2018 saw the release of Ocean Connections, a new report that examines the impacts of rising ocean temperatures and other stressors such as ocean acidification – the decrease in pH of the ocean – and deoxygenation – a reduction in the amount of oxygen dissolved in the ocean – on the marine environment and human life, and their potential consequences for society.  The report was released at the Ocean Risk Summit in Bermuda as part of a collaboration with XL Catlin global (re)insurance company.

  • In the spotlight:

    Halting Marine Biodiversity Loss by Closing The Plastic Tap

    Every year, an estimated one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die from plastic pollution. In celebration of World Wildlife Day, IUCN has produced this photo story to raise awareness about the fundamental importance of tackling plastic pollution in order to protect our marine species and effectively strive towards sustainable development.

  • In the spotlight:

    Ocean Warming Report

    Explaining Ocean Warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences was released to the world’s media in September 2016 at the IUCN Congress in Hawaii.  This 460-page publication offers a comprehensive and up-to-date look at the effects of ocean warming from the perspective of major ecosystems and species groups.  Drawing on the work of over 80 scientists from 12 countries, it sets out the likely nature and scale of changes to come and also looks at the probable economic consequences ocean warming poses as well as associated risks to human health and well-being.


  • The National Guidance for Plastic Pollution Hotspotting and Shaping Action is a guide for countries, regions and cities to develop strategic plans for tackling plastic pollution. Photo: ©IUCN/UNEP

    Guidelines target plastic pollution hotspots


    From promoting innovative eco-design to banning the use of single-use plastic straws, efforts to curb plastic pollution are as ubiquitous as plastic itself. However, the problem is not going away. It is time to adopt a new strategy.

  • minke whale in Ross Sea IMMA minke whale in Ross Sea IMMA Photo: ©Robert L. Pitman

    13 Important Marine Mammal Areas approved in the Southern Ocean, one of the world’s richest marine mammal areas


    The IUCN SSC/WCPA Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force (“the Task Force”) today announces the approval of thirteen new Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs) in the Extended Southern Ocean Region.

  • Mangroves are an important but fragile ecosystem Sustainably managed mangroves can provide ecosystem services such as coastal protection, food and medicines as well as carbon storage, positively impacting both biodiversity and human well-being. The IUCN Global Standard for NbS provides a tool to help ensure that projects labelled as Nature-based Solutions - for example through restoration of mangroves - do indeed deliver the anticipated benefits to both society and biodiversity. Photo: Maxwell Ridgway / Unsplash

    IUCN Standard to boost impact of nature-based solutions to global challenges


    Gland, Switzerland, 23 July 2020 (IUCN) – IUCN today unveiled a Global Standard providing the first-ever set of benchmarks for nature-based solutions to global challenges. The new IUCN Global Standard will help governments, business and civil society ensure...


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Panama Porkfish Photo: Octavio Aburto

Marine Protected Areas

IUCN engages in advocating for the expansion of the MPA network through reliable science and by engaging with local stakeholders.


Sargasso Sea Photo: Don Kincaid

International ocean governance

IUCN's work on ocean governance covers many of the issues relating to the sustainable use and management of coastal, transboundary and international waters from large marine ecosystems to the high seas.


New Coral Growing on Old Photo: Henry Wolcott

Climate Change and the Ocean

Climate change is severely and rapidly impacting species, ecosystems and people around the globe. Climate change and ocean acidification are jeopardizing food security, shoreline protection, the provision of income, livelihood sources and sustainable economic development. IUCN's work...
Marine plastics on beach Photo: Peter Charaf

"Close the Plastic Tap" Programme

Every year, over 300 million tons of plastic are produced, half of which is used to design single-use items such as shopping bags, cups and straws. At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year and make up 80% of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea...

Quick reads

Aimed at policy-makers and journalists, IUCN Issues Briefs provide key information on selected issues in a two-pager format.

Deoxygenation Photo: IUCN

Ocean deoxygenation

Globally, oceans have lost around 2% of dissolved oxygen since the 1950s and are expected to lose about 3–4% by the year 2100 under a business-as-usual scenario (Representative Concentration Pathway...
thumbnail_Governing areas beyond national jurisdiction issues brief Photo: IUCN

Governing areas beyond national jurisdiction

Nearly two-thirds of the world’s ocean is beyond national jurisdiction – where no single state has authority. This area reaches depths of over 10 km and represents 95% of the Earth’s total habitat by...
Thumbnail_Deep-sea mining Photo: IUCN

Deep-sea mining

Deep-sea mining is the process of retrieving mineral deposits from the deep sea – the area of the ocean below 200 m which covers about 65% of the Earth’s surface.  There is growing interest...
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