World Bank Brief: Oceans, Fisheries and Coastal Economies Worldwide

World Bank Logo.For billions around the world—especially the world’s poorest—healthy oceans mean jobs, food and protection. FAO estimates that fisheries and aquaculture assure the livelihoods of 10-12 percent of the world’s population with more than 90 percent of those employed by capture fisheries working in small-scale operations in developing countries. Oceans are equally important for food security and jobs. In 2012, fisheries produced roughly 160 million tons of fish and generated over US $129 billion in exports while securing access to nutrition for billions of people and accounting for 16 percent of total global animal protein.

Coastal areas within 100 kilometers of the ocean account for an estimated 61 percent of the world’s total Gross National Product (GNP) and are of particular importance for developing countries; in 54 coastal and island countries up to two thirds of total national territory is ocean. Overall, healthy oceans, coasts and freshwater ecosystems are crucial for economic growth and food production in developing countries.

West Africa-fishers back to shore.A healthy ocean is also fundamental to the global effort to mitigate climate change and its impacts. “Blue carbon” sinks such as mangroves and other vegetated ocean habitats sequester 25 percent of the extra CO2 from fossil fuels and protect coastal communities from floods and storms. In turn, warming oceans and atmospheric carbon are causing ocean acidification that threatens the balance and productivity of the ocean.

Ocean resources have a vast potential to unlock growth and wealth but human activity has taken a toll on ocean health. Fish stocks have deteriorated due to overfishing—the FAO estimates that approximately 57 percent of fish stocks are fully exploited and another 30 percent are over-exploited, depleted or recovering.

Huge school of Bluefin Tuna, called Superfish and a truly magnificent creature that is being hunted to extinction. Fish stocks are further exploited by illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, responsible for roughly 11 to 26 million tons of fish catches or US$10-22 billion in unlawful or undocumented revenue. In fact, poor fisheries management costs roughly US $50 billion annually and US $2 trillion in the last 30 years in lost economic potential. Fish habitats are also under pressure from pollution, coastal development, and destructive fishing practices that undermine fish population rehabilitation efforts.

Proper management of fisheries, investment in sustainable aquaculture and protection of key habitats can restore the productivity of the ocean and return benefits to billions of people in developing countries while ensuring future growth, food security and jobs for coastal communities.


Aquabounty tanks in the environmentally sound salmon farm with genetically engineered salmon that grow constantly. World Bank investment unlocks the wealth from ocean resources that sustainably contributes to growth and returns long-term benefits to communities and countries. The World Bank Group helps countries promote strong governance of marine and coastal resources to improve the contribution to sustainable and inclusive growth by supporting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, establishing coastal and marine protected areas, reducing pollution, integrating coastal resource management and developing knowledge and capacity around ocean health. The World Bank’s active ‘blue growth’ portfolio is worth US$6.4 billion.

Coastal salmon farm, a controversial practice that can be dangerous to wild salmon. The Bank provides some $1 billion in financing for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, and for efforts to conserve and enhance coastal and ocean habitats. The Bank’s engagement in fisheries and aquaculture is also supported by the PROFISH program, which aims to improve the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of world’s fisheries and aquaculture. The Bank also provides some $5.4 billion for coastal infrastructure such as waste treatment, watershed management and other activities that help reduce coastal pollution.

Active projects include support for Pacific island region, West Africa and South West Indian Ocean fisheries management, a partnership to build governance for migratory fish stocks in areas beyond and between national jurisdiction, and a regional technical assistance program to combat coastal erosion in West Africa.

The Bank also contributes to knowledge around oceans and fisheries with publications such as Fish to 2030: Prospects for Fisheries and Aquaculture; The Sunken Billions: The Economic Justification for Fisheries Reform and more. In 2014, the World Bank released the Trade in Fishing Services Report, which discusses best practices for foreign fishing arrangements that benefit developing nations.

The Bank convenes partners and stakeholders to mobilize ocean investment, advocate for positive reforms and ensure that healthy oceans remain on the global development agenda. It works through partnerships including the PROFISH program, the Alliance for Responsible Fisheries, the Strategic Partnership for Fisheries in Africa and the Ocean Partnerships for Sustainable Fisheries and Biodiversity Conservation.


In Indonesia, where two-thirds of coral reefs are considered threatened by overfishing, the Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Project (COREMAP), has benefited 358 village communities by establishing marine protected areas and reducing illegal and destructive fishing. This work has increased communities’ income in COREMAP areas by 21 percent since 2008.

The Coastal and Biodiversity Management Project in Guinea-Bissau helped the country establish national parks and protected areas network, protecting 480,000 hectares of the country’s coastal zone. In four of the five established protected areas, the effectiveness of park management increased by at least 15 percent from 2005 to 2010.

The West Africa Regional Fisheries Program covers eight countries: Cabo Verde,Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The program aims to increase the economic contribution of marine resources through strengthened fisheries governance, reduced illegal fishing, and increased local value added to fish products. In Liberia, the government passed comprehensive fisheries regulations in December 2010 and inaugurated the first fisheries monitoring center. Since that time, the incidence of illegal fishing has been reduced by 83 percent and fishing communities report higher catches.

In Sierra Leone, the Government has brought over 14 industrial vessels to port for illegal fishing and increased public revenues from the fisheries sector from US$0.9 million in 2008 to US$3.8 million in 2013. The introduction of community-led fisheries management in Senegal has been successful in restoring resource; some communities have reported a 133% increase in catch efficiency.

India: The Integrated Coastal Zone Management in India (FY07– FY15) finances national- and state-level capacity building, land use planning, and pilot investments in pollution management, resource conservation, and livelihood improvements. So far, more than 6,000 hectares of mangroves have been planted and 11 new coastal areas have been declared ecologically sensitive. Work has begun to stop the flow of more than 100 million liters of untreated sewage per day into the ocean and protect over 150 km of shoreline.