Skip to main content
Oceans and fisheries

International ocean governance

International ocean governance is about managing the world's oceans and their resources together so that they are healthy and productive, for the benefit of current and future generations.

Oceans are essential for humankind as climate regulators, as a source for nutritious and healthy food, and as an engine for development. The OECD estimates that ocean-based industries contribute roughly €1.3 trillion to global gross value added. Oceans are also home to a rich, fragile, and still largely unexplored biodiversity, which provides a variety of important ecosystem services. For instance, oceans produce half of the oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere and absorb 25% of CO2 emissions.

Oceans are under intense pressure from human activities. Overexploitation and illegal activities, climate change, and marine pollution are threatening our ocean's health and productivity. With the world’s population expected to reach 9-10 billion by 2050, pressures will increase and global competition for raw materials, food, water and space will intensify.

Oceans are highly dynamic and interconnected; around two-thirds of the world’s oceans are areas beyond the national jurisdiction of states. Their specific characteristics and status imply a shared global responsibility and the need to cooperate and coordinate across boundaries and borders to take meaningful action.


In 2016, the European Commission and the EU's High Representative set out a joint communication on international ocean governance: an agenda for the future of our oceans, specifying 50 actions for safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans in Europe and around the world under 3 policy pillars

  1. strengthening the international framework governing the oceans
  2. reducing pressure on oceans and seas and creating the conditions for a sustainable ‘blue’ economy
  3. strengthening international ocean research and data

The joint communication is an integral part of the EU's response to the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Sustainable Development Goal 14 'to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources' (SDG14) and contributes to the European Green Deal.

The EU has launched the International Ocean Governance (IOG) Forum to assess development needs and options for action in light of today’s challenges and opportunities in international ocean governance.


Read our latest news on international ocean governance.