Help protect our marine life

Our oceans are in crisis. The latest numbers show a dramatic decline of 49 per cent in the size of marine populations between 1970 and 2012. Find out how ZSL is helping, and how you can too.

The facts

Acropora palmata - an EDGE coral
Acropora palmata, an EDGE coral species. Image (c) Erik Brun.

Human activity has a serious impact on marine life, and the consequences are becoming clearer every day. Over-fishing, pollution and climate change have triggered major declines in our marine life. This does not only pose a threat to our environment, it is a threat to our food security – the Scombridae family of fish, including tuna and mackerel, has seen a global population decline of 74%.

Other species in decline include:

  • Sharks and rays: 25% of shark, rays and skates are now threatened with local extinction
  • Fish that are harvested: 50% reduction in population size globally between 1970 and 2010
  • Coral reefs: Coral reef cover – has decreased by more than 50% over the last 30 years.

Scientists in ZSL's Indicators and Assessments team conducted a thorough analysis of data from our oceans, which can be read in detail in WWF’s Living Blue Planet report. Read it here.  

What you can do

  • According to a recent study, globally 13 million tonnes of plastic waste enters our ocean every year, threatening species from turtles to seabirds. Reduce your plastic use, and recycle what you do use.
  • If you consume seafood, make sure it is sustainably sourced. You can use online tools such as
  • The more data we have on what’s living in our oceans, the easier it is to conserve it. Take part in a citizen science programme, such as an eel survey or look for other ways to get involved.  You can also report Thames marine mammal sightings to our map, and report sightings of seahorses and angel sharks 
  • Marine Protected Areas have been proven to be an effective way for us to reverse the terrible damage we’ve done to our oceans. Support the creation of MPAs in the UK, the UK Overseas Territories and abroad  
  • Help with a beach clean near you – you can find opportunities on the Marine Conservation Society website  
  • Share your determination to protect marine life, your examples of success stories, and encourage others to do so too. Use hashtag #OceanOptimism and #StateoftheOceans   

What ZSL is doing

Ghost crab on Chagos beach
Ghost crab on Chagos beach.

We’re running conservation programmes around the world to try and protect marine species, including:

  1. UK and Europe - we're protecting the Critically Endangered angel shark in the Canary Islands, and monitoring eels, seals and fish in the Thames with the help of citizen scientists
  2. Chagos –  we were an instrumental partner in the establishment of the largest no-take marine reserve around Chagos, twice the size of the UK. Our research is helping management of this reserve and understanding of how well it protects mobile species like tuna, sharks and seabirds.
  3. Pitcairn  – our work as part of Great British Oceans helped contribute to the government’s decision to establish the world’s largest marine reserve around the Pitcairn Islands
  4. Project Ocean – ZSL is working with Selfridges to establish new marine reserves, encourage people to avoid eating endangered fish and tackle the problem of plastic in the ocean. Start helping by using a refillable water bottle today
  5. Net-Works – ZSL is a key partner in this innovative project which sees local communities collecting discarded fishing nets, a major threat to marine life, from the ocean and selling it into the supply chain to be made into carpet tiles.
  6. Mangroves – the latest figures show a 20% loss in mangrove cover between 1980 and 2005. We’re working to protect and restore mangroves in the Philippines.  Over a four year period, close to 100,000 mangroves were planted and we are now integrating mangroves into Marine Protected Areas.

Support our marine conservation work by becoming a member of ZSL, or joining our Wildlife Champion scheme.