Oceans and seas

Observed from space, our planet’s surface appears to be dominated by the color blue. This blue color occurs because of the presence of the oceans and seas of the world. These features cover approximately 71% or 361 million square kilometers (139 million square miles) of Earth’s surface with a volume of about 1370 million cubic kilometers (329 million cubic miles). The average depth of these bodies of seawater is about 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles). Maximum depths can exceed 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in areas known as ocean trenches. The oceans contain 97% of our planet's available water. The ocean is also home to many forms of life uniquely adapted to survive in this habitat. Humans have degraded the oceans and their life through pollution, overfishing, carbon dioxide acidification and resource exploitation.

  • Indigo hamlet Featured Article Indigo hamlet Indigo hamlet

    The indigo hamlet (scientific name: Hypoplectrus indigo) is a member of the grouper/seabass family (Family Serranidae) that live on coral reefs in the Western Atlantic Ocean... More »

  • Spinner dolphin Featured Article Spinner dolphin Spinner dolphin

    The Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris), a marine mammal in the family of oceanic dolphins,  gets its name from the spinning behavior it shows when it leaps out of... More »

  • Ocean acidification troubles Featured Article Ocean acidification troubles Ocean acidification troubles

    The seas in which corals and other calcifying species dwell are turning acidic, their pH slowly dropping as Earth's oceans acidify in response to increased carbon dioxide... More »

  • Marine biodiversity Featured Article Marine biodiversity Marine biodiversity

    Biodiversity is now commonly defined as the variety of life in genes, species and habitats. According to the definition of the Convention on Biological Diversity, biodiversity is... More »

  • Coccolithophores Featured Article Coccolithophores Coccolithophores

      Like any other type of phytoplankton, coccolithophores are one-celled marine plants that live in large numbers throughout the upper layers of the ocean. Unlike any... More »

  • Long-finned pilot whale Featured Article Long-finned pilot whale Long-finned pilot whale

    The long-finned pilot whale (scientific name: Globicephala melas) is one of two species in the genus Globicephala. The pilot whale is so named because when swimming, the groups... More »

  • Seas of the world Featured Article Seas of the world Seas of the world

    A sea is commonly defined to be an extended body of saline water associated with one of the worlds five oceans (Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, Arctic, and Southern oceans). Some seas... More »

Recently Updated
Madagascar mangroves Last Updated on 2015-04-08 23:48:19 WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection Shielded from monsoon winds by the central mountains of Madagascar, Madagascar mangroves occupy a wide range of environmental and climatic conditions along the western coastline along the Indian Ocean. Although the ecoregion’s species richness is low, it is unusual in supporting certain endemic tree species. The mangroves also shelter highly diverse mollusk and crustacean communities, while capturing sediment that threatens coral reefs and seagrass beds. Birds, sea turtles, and dugongs all utilize mangroves, as do the Malagasy people. Rice farming, shrimp aquaculture and construction materials are all carried out within these mangroves. On Madagascar, mangroves are found primarily along the western coast. They occur in a wide range of environmental and climatic conditions, fostered by a low coastal... More »
Marine biodiversity and food security Last Updated on 2015-02-28 19:05:44 Harvesting of wild fish and shellfish from the oceans provides food to the earth’s population, particularly in the developing world, and is a major contributor to the world economy. In the USA alone, fishing supports an industry worth nearly $50 billion annually. Although fishing commenced very early in human history, it was during the 20th century that its reach and impact spread around the globe and into deep waters, first with the advent of motorized vessels near the turn of the century, and later as a result of widespread availability of cheap oil, refrigeration, and increasingly effective technology. These developments made fishing an intensive global industry, particularly after Word War II. Modern fisheries, including both landings and by-catch, currently consume 24-35% of global marine primary production in the continental shelf and major upwelling areas,... More »
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: The Fate of the Oil Last Updated on 2015-02-02 17:02:07 Summary The April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig led to the largest oil spill in U.S. waters. Federal government officials estimated that the deepwater well ultimately released (over 84 days) over 200 million gallons (or 4.9 million barrels) of crude oil. Although decreasing amounts of oil were observed on the ocean surface following the well’s containment on July 15, 2010, oil spill response officials and researchers have found oil in other places. A pressing question that has been raised by many stakeholders is where did the oil go? On August 4, 2010, the federal government released an estimate of the oil spill budget for the Deepwater Horizon incident. On November 23, 2010, the federal government released a peerreviewed “Technical Document” that further explained how the estimates were derived, and in some cases, modified the... More »
Marine biodiversity Last Updated on 2014-12-15 19:53:24 Biodiversity is now commonly defined as the variety of life in genes, species and habitats. According to the definition of the Convention on Biological Diversity, biodiversity is the variability among living organisms from all sources, including inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems. The three domains of life, bacteria, archaea and eukarya are present in the marine environment. In addition there are viruses. About 230,000 species of marine plants and animals have been scientifically described and a few thousand bacteria and archaea. This known biodiversity only represents a small fraction of the number of species existing, except for the macrophytes and seagrasses which are living in coastal environments and, in general, for the pelagic... More »
Fisheries and aquaculture Last Updated on 2014-12-07 21:08:51 In 2002 the global production from fishing and aquaculture combined reached about 133 million tonnes. The global yield from capture fisheries is stagnating, but aquaculture has been expanding. The quantities of fish captured remained stable at about 93 million tonnes per year between 1999 and 2002. China and Peru are leading the top ten of countries with the largest catches. The same countries have remained in the top ten for over a decade. Oceans and seas provide 90% of the world's fishery catches. During the past decade marine catches brought to land increased slightly compared to the preceding decade. It should be noted that the quantity of marine fish caught and discarded fell by several million tonnes in the same time period. Trends vary greatly across different regions and for different species. The species yielding the largest harvest is the Peruvian... More »