The human ocean

Photo: R. Kautsky/Azote

This focus area will shape new and emerging research frontiers to produce the best possible science for a more sustainable and equitable future for the ocean

The ocean is essential for human well-being. It shapes the Earth’s climate, provides a key source of food and livelihoods, and enables a growing range of economic activities.

An unprecedented expansion of human activity in the ocean has caused the connections between ocean health and people to become increasingly complex, diverse and dynamic.

Whole new ocean industries have emerged in recent decades, “blue food” has taken on central importance at the nexus of nutrition, health and planetary boundaries, and stark equity and inclusivity challenges have grown increasingly pronounced. All, while ocean systems are being reshaped by a changing climate.

While embracing a diversity of research interests, this theme is placing particular emphasis around three focal research areas that together contribute towards a more equitable and sustainable future:

  1. Ocean equity – work within this focal area will focus on understanding the dimensions and drivers of ocean inequity and identify pathways to fairer distribution of ocean benefits.
  2. Ocean risk – risk exists across all levels of the Human Ocean, from ecosystems to local communities and transnational corporations. Work in this area will focus on understanding, quantifying and addressing risk across local to global scales and social and ecological dimensions.
  3. Ocean futures – the ocean and humanity’s relationship with it are rapidly changing, growing more complex and dynamic over time. Work within this focal area will aim to use the full range of tools available to model, predict and imagine the future of the Human Ocean.

At the core of the theme is a commitment to understand, and seek constructive engagement with, the full range of actors and stakeholders shaping the ocean, ranging from local communities and NGOs to international policymakers and the private sector.

Theme contacts


Susa Niiranen

Robert Blasiak


Ocean news

Theme publications