Photo: Finger coral in the lagoon of Kingman Reef

Photograph by Enric Sala

Understanding Our Relationship With the Ocean

Over half the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the coast, yet most of us view the ocean as a thing of beauty, of mystery, or simply a place to vacation. The truth is that the ocean is critical to life on earth. Our health and the health of the planet depends on a healthy ocean. By exploring how a healthier ocean can sustain life now and for future generations, we can choose to take action. Everyone can make a positive change and, in doing so, inspire others to act as well—to create and be part of the solutions that will secure our future and that of the planet.


The Ocean Initiative at National Geographic

Our vision is a healthy and productive ocean that benefits people and nature.

Our work is focused on restoring the health and productivity of the ocean through a variety of innovative approaches and partnerships that will:

  • magnify the application of marine reserves, the most powerful tool for ocean restoration;
  • replace the "race to the bottom" system of fishing with one that generates long-term economic, social, and environmental benefits; and
  • raise awareness worldwide to the benefits of creating marine protected areas and restoring fisheries.


What You Can Do


Why It Matters

The ocean—over 70 percent of the planet—sustains life on Earth. It supplies more than half the oxygen we breathe, its fisheries provide employment for 180 million people and protein for billions worldwide, it regulates climate and water quality, and it offers opportunities for recreation and tourism. Yet the ocean faces major threats, not the least of which is humanity itself. In 1988, those fisheries that the UN officially tracks landed about 80 million tons of fish worldwide. Since then, the amount of fish we have been able to extract has steadily declined each year despite continued increases in fishing effort (more and more fishermen catching fewer and fewer fish). That is bad news, not only for a growing human population, but also because a depleted ocean is an ocean less able to resist other threats such as pollution and climate change.

Like us, like our land, the ocean is incredibly resilient. If we greatly reduce the impact of fishing it will restore itself, and if we leave it alone the ocean will restore itself even faster.


Why We Need Marine Reserves

Ninety percent of the large predators in the ocean are gone and their populations have collapsed. The reason for this is that we have taken too many fish out of the sea, and we keep taking more before the remaining populations are able to reproduce.

Watch this video where Mel, the “very weird” fish, will show you how marine reserves can help fish populations recover, and why we need many more.

Learn More

Ocean Innovations

National Geographic's Ocean Initiative is helping identify and support individuals and organizations that are using creative and entrepreneurial approaches to marine conservation.

Learn More »

Your Ocean

  • Photo: Clown anemonefish

    For Kids

    Learn about the ocean with activities, photos, and games.

  • Photo: A school of fish and a shark swim in a coral reef.

    Ocean Education

    Bring engaging and important ocean learning to your classroom.

Support the Ocean

Explore the Ocean

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    Ocean Life

    Order ocean books, DVDs, maps, and more from the National Geographic online store.

  • <p>Photo: Leopard seals on a glacier</p>

    Ocean Special Issue

    Explore the world's oceans, from their prehistoric beginnings to modern-day efforts to preserve their natural wonder.

  • Photo: Ocean Atlas from National Geographic

    Ocean: An Illustrated Atlas

    Immerse yourself in the wonders of the deep through colorful maps, photos, and satellite images.

Engage, Conserve, Restore

  • Photo: Sunset at waterfalls

    Freshwater Initiative

    The National Geographic Society’s freshwater initiative is a multi-year global effort to inspire and empower individuals and communities to conserve freshwater and preserve the extraordinary diversity of life that rivers, lakes, and wetlands sustain.