The Ocean Atlas

Territorially speaking, the high seas belong to no one – and so when it comes to exploitation, they belong to everyone.

Fish – almost out of stock?

Fish is a cornerstone of global food security. This global dependence on fish is actually the greatest threat to our fish populations. Many are overfished, and the number is rising.

The Microplastic Problem

Beaches littered with plastic garbage, seabirds strangled by bits of plastic – these images are ubiquitous today. Yet we also see photos of people cleaning beaches and hear about plans for purifying the ocean. Are things actually improving?

Mankind and the Seas

The ocean covers more than two-thirds of our planet's surface. It is rich in resources and provides us with food, energy, and minerals. Oceans are important transportation routes and crucial for the stability of our climate and the weather. But due to overfishing, the loss of biodiversity, and ocean pollution, the future of this unique ecosystem faces a grave threat today.

This is where the atlas comes into play. It illustrates the important role played by the ocean and its ecosystems – not only for people living on the coasts but for all of us. It aims to give a current insight of the state and the threat of the seas, that are our livelihoods. Therefore we hope to stimulate a broader social and political discussion about the meaning of the ocean as an important system and the possibilities for protecting it.


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Resources, fish population and energy: how we are exploiting the seas

World Trade and Price Wars

Coffee, bananas, smartphones, automobiles: cargo ships transport goods around the world. 90 percent of global trade is seaborne. Who does what – and who pays for it all?

Global Hunger For Natural Resources

Unseen treasures with mysterious names beckon from the depths of the ocean: manganese nodules, cobalt crusts, black smokers. Hidden within them are rich concentrations of valuable metals.

Energy From the Ocean: Where Does the Future Lie?

Countries are turning their attention to the ocean in order to ensure that future demands for energy and raw materials can be met. Which direction will they take? What are the opportunities and risks? An overview.


The global demand for raw materials continues rising. What could be better than dipping into the treasure chest of the deep sea? Ecologists warn that anything that is destroyed there will not regenerate for a long time, if at all. But a number of countries and industrial companies are already chomping at the bit, eager to secure what they see as their piece of the cake.

Aquaculture: Are Fish Farms the Future?

Aquaculture is booming – in 2014 nearly every second fish consumed by people came from a fish farm. The ecological and social problems caused by this aquatic stockbreeding are immense.

Downloads of the Ocean Atlas

All graphs of the Ocean Atlas are published under a Creative Commons License CC BY 4.0. and can be continued to be used, processed and published under these conditions. You can find all downloads available in various formats (jpg, png, pdf) here.

Many EXPERTS contributed their expertise to the Ocean Atlas, particularly scientists working together at the University of Kiel’s Future Ocean Cluster of Excellence to research the development of our oceans.

Here's the who is who >>

The ocean – a fragile ecosystem

A Look Into the Past: Exploitation and Protected Areas

The plants and animals that currently live in the “wilderness” of the ocean or in marine protected areas are just a fraction of what once thrived in the seas. To understand what we’ve lost and what we might be able to recover, we need to know what used to be.

Climate Change: Rising Sea Levels and Temperatures

Acidification: A Corrosive Future

Our oceans are becoming more and more acidic. Though barely detectable to humans, for many of the animals that live there, the change is already proving fatal.

Warming Waters and Rising Risks

The ocean is far, far away from Springdale, Arkansas. And yet the city is feeling the effects of the rising sea level. Seeking safety, 10,000 inhabitants of the Marshall Islands have made the city their new home.

Coasts: Life in the Danger Zone

Flooding, erosion, sinking: our coasts are under ever-increasing pressure. People who live in coastal regions are especially endangered – and there are an ever-increasing number of them.

Fertilizer for the Dead Zones

Each summer, a 20,000-square-kilometer dead zone forms in the Gulf of Mexico. The cause of the lifeless water lies not in the gulf itself but on dry land, 2,000 kilometers upriver.

Booming cruise tourism: while the number of visitors increases rapidly, the number of desired destinations does not. In 1980, 1.4 million people went on cruises; in 2016 it was already 24 million passengers.

Destination: Ocean

Cruise ships carrying 4,000 travelers, all-inclusive beachfront resorts – increasing global tourism places an ever-greater strain on the ocean and coastal populations.

Ocean Governance: Towards Protecting a Common Good

Ocean Governance: Who Owns the Ocean?

For thousands of years people have taken to the sea to fish and trade. Wars have been fought as rival rulers claimed the rights to the sea and its exploitation. Those conflicts have continued to this day.

International protective agreements and treaties like the Agenda 2030 ratified by the UN will only achieve long-term success if they receive broad support from society.

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