Photo credit - Brian StockwellThe Marine Biodiversity Unit of the IUCN Global Species Programme aims to lay the foundation for marine biodiversity conservation by providing comprehensive, species-specific data on our ocean’s biota. The primary initiative of the MBU is the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA) project, an initiative formed in 2005 with the goal of completing 20,000 global marine species assessments.

The oceans cover more than 70% of Earth’s surface area and more than 99% of its liveable space. In addition to driving weather patterns and supporting the transport of our cargo, the ocean produces over half of the air we breathe, stores more than half of the carbon we emit, and provides nutrition for over half of the world's population. Life originated in the sea and hosts a staggering amount of biodiversity - of the 31 animal phyla on Earth, 15 are unique to the oceans. Eight out of the ten most populous cities on earth are coastal and over half of the world's population lives within 200 km of the coastline. Around 80 million tonnes of fish are caught annually by 3 million marine fishing vessels and more than 10% of the world's population depends on fisheries for their livelihood.

The oceans have long been considered less threatened by anthropogenic impacts than terrestrial environments. However, through escalating technological advances, our impacts, from coastal development, pollution, overexploitation, and global climate change, threaten even the most remote of marine ecosystems. As our population continues to grow, our impacts will follow, jeopardizing the myriad benefits delivered to us by the oceans.

To conserve and manage marine biodiversity, the MBU works with the Species Survival Commission’s Specialist Groups (including the Grouper and Wrasse Specialist Group; Sciaenid Red List Authority; Seahorse, Pipefish & Stickleback Specialist Group; Snapper, Seabream & Grunt Specialist Group; Shark Specialist Group and Tuna and Billfish Specialist Group), IUCN regional offices, regional and taxonomic scientists.

For further information on the MBU and our projects, please visit our website.