Why are the oceans so important for us?

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Laminaria fronds (kelp) are the forests of the subtidal.

Our future lies in the Oceans…[1]

The issues at stake

Oceans are the cradle of life, contributing fundamentally to the Earth’s functioning through their sheer size, productivity, biomass and diversity! Over 95% of the volume of the biosphere is occupied by marine organisms and both inland and offshore waters provide resources and services estimated at 60% of the total economic value of the biosphere. It is acknowledged that the ocean and its biota drive the global climate, yet we are only beginning to understand about the future of our planet and global climate change. If we are to adequately address ocean issues at the local, national, regional and global levels, science cannot operate in isolation, but will need to integrate more fully with society at

An estimated 3-5% of Europe’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is generated by marine based industries and services, without including the value of raw materials, such as oil, gas or fish (EU 2007).

large. There must also be changes in the way we regulate marine activities, in our social goals and our attitudes to ocean governance. If we are to make the right decisions, we must understand how things "work" in the oceans and how they interact; and we must recognise the role of the oceans in our life-support system and its value for humankind. This will require excellent science, together with the technology for pursuing it, as well as the support of individuals and governments. Ultimately, it calls for a vision of the planet that embraces land, sea, the atmosphere and human societies in all its interactions. Marine genomics has an enormous potential to improve our lifestyles and prosperity, to enhance the competitiveness of European industry, and to guarantee global sustainability.

A call for action…

The goods and services from the ocean have been estimated as huge(e.g., marine habitat at US$ 577 /ha/yr for 36,302 106 ha = US$ 20,949 109 /yr) [2]. What is worrying is that there is an accelerated loss of species and disintegration of ecosystems, such that many services have become jeopardised [3]

In order to make immediate progress with these pressing issues which directly affect our future, the EU and its member states urged to take further action. In keeping with this, the EU Network of Excellence Marine Genomics Europe(MGE) focuses on:

  • technology transfer and technology translation between high-throughput genomics, marine biology, oceanography, industry and society;
  • working with policy makers;
  • transparency and dialogue with society.

Strategic priorities of Europe’s main short-, medium- and long-term objectives in marine genomics are part of MGE’s priorities. We will focus on the understanding and sustainable exploitation of the ocean in order to:

  • generate knowledge for the sustainability of Planet Ocean;
  • promote the use of marine organisms as models for a variety of problems and questions affecting daily life and for understanding our evolution and the secrets of life;
  • promote sustainable exploitation of molecular products for the competitiveness of European industry;
  • promote the sustainable exploitation of food products for the management and protection of our environment.
The vision initiated by the Marine Genomics Europe Network, has been endorsed by the European Union: The Galway declaration identified the contribution of marine industries towards achieving the Lisbon objectives, and the role of marine science and technology in the seventh EU Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) towards developing world class excellence in marine science and technology. The 2004 Euroceans conference emphasised that alongside marine and maritime research, there is an urgent need to support co-ordinated and sustained collection, archiving of and ready access to, comprehensive marine datasets”(EU 2005).


  1. Volckaert F.A.M., Barbier M., Canário A.V.M., Clark M.S., Glöckner F.O., Olsen J.L., Wesnigk J., Boyen C. (2008) Marine Genomics Europe. The European flagship of marine sciences for a sustainable future. 38 pp. Marine Genomics Europe, EC-FP6 GOCE-CT-2004-505403
  2. COSTANZA, R., D’ARGE, R., DEGROOT, R., et al. (1997). The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387, 253-260
  3. WORM, B., BARBIER E.B., BEAUMONT, N., D et al. (2006). Impacts of biodiversity loss on ocean ecosystem services. Science 314, 787-790.