Importance of fisheries to man

1. Capture fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 106 million tonnes of food fish in 2004, providing an apparent per capita supply of 16.6 kg (live weight equivalent). Overall, fish provided more than 2.6 billion people with at least 20 percent of their average per capita animal protein intake.

2. The fishery net exports of developing countries have shown a continuing rising trend over the past two decades, growing from US$4.6 billion in 1984 to US$20.4 billion in 2004. These figures are significantly higher than those for other agricultural commodities such as rice, coffee and tea.

Importance of coastal areas to humans

3. Coastal areas comprise 20 percent of the Earth’s surface yet contain over 50 percent of the entire human population.

4. Coastal ecosystems yield 90 % of global fisheries and almost 80 % of known species of marine fish (13,200 species).

5. Reefs and mangrove protect the shoreline by absorbing at least 70-90 per cent of the energy of wind generated waves.

6. Worldwide, over 1,200 major estuaries, lagoons and fiords have been identified covering an area of about 500,000 km2. They account for approximately 80% of the world’s freshwater discharge. 62% of these major estuaries occur within 25 km of cities with 100,000 or more habitants.

Importance of activities at sea (shipping, fishing, oil or gas offshore production…)

7. 90 % of world international trade tonnage is transported by ship.

8. There are 6,000 offshore oil and gas installations in operation worldwide that provide 25 to 30 percent of the world’s energy supply.

Importance of Ocean in climate balance

9. Oceans can absorb about a thousand times as much heat as the atmosphere. In this way they create a massive inertia in climate change, which delays its onset, but ensures that once it begins, it cannot be reversed in anything less than several centuries.

10. About 90 % of the world’s total carbon content has settled to the bottom of the ocean, primarily in the form of dead biomass. Phytoplankton only lives for about a day or two, and when it dies, it sinks to the bottom. Consequently, over geological time, the ocean has become the primary storage sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Evaluation of the economic value of ocean

11. Tourism plays an important role in the economy of many coastal nations (25 % of total export earnings in the Pacific and 35 % in the Caribbean islands).

12. The total annual economic value of reefs has been estimated at between US$100 000 and US$600 000 per km2 (according to areas and national evaluations) and the value of mangroves at more than US$900 000 per km2.

13. The best estimate suggests that the value of global ocean services may be worth about US$ 23 trillion a year, only slightly less then the world’s GNP.


N° 1; 2: FAO/SOFIA 2006
N° 4; 7; 8; 11: Sommet Mondial pour le Développement Durable 2002 – “A Guide to Oceans, Coasts and Islands”
N° 5; 12: “In the Front Line – Shoreline protection and other ecosystem services from mangroves and coral reefs”
N° 6: « Marine and Coastal Ecosystems and Human Well-being” Synthesis report based on the findings of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment/UNEP
N° 9; 13: GESAMP (Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection)
N° 10: NASA