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The ocean has been a cornerstone of human development

throughout the history of civilization. People continue to come to

the coasts to build some of the largest cities on the planet, with

thriving economies, culture and communities. Ocean and coastal

ecosystems provide us with resources and trade opportunities that

greatly benefit human well-being.

These benefits are often taken for granted as we fail to recognize

their underlying value. In our narrow pursuit of progress through

purely economic and social development we often fail to protect the

health of our marine system that we depend upon. Today, however,

we increasingly realize the importance of healthy ecosystems for

sustainable development that is reflected in the 17 Sustainable

Development Goals (SDGs) recently adopted by the United Nations.

We can no longer afford to apply an antagonistic paradigm between

development and conservation. The SDG framework provides the

world with the opportunity to transform how we think about the

‘Oceans and Us’.

This publication highlights the critical contribution of healthy marine

and coastal ecosystems to achieving the SDGs and describes the

role of credible and accessible data, well communicated knowledge

generated through dialogue with users, in supporting informed


Chief Scientist and ad interim

Director of UNEP’s Division of Early

Warning and Assessment

Prof. Jacqueline McGlade