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World Ocean Assessment Overview

The first World Ocean Assessment (WOA) is a report on the state of the planet’s oceans. It is the product of the first cycle of the Regular Process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects, which was established after the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (Ref: page 2 of Summary).

The Regular Process was set up to review the environmental, economic and social aspects of the world’s oceans. Sanctioned by the United Nations, this first report was released at the end of 2015 and is the product of a review of hundreds of other national and regional assessments. It was written by a Group of Experts and involved more than 600 scientists, all nominated by United Nations Member States who worked together to complete the report. The findings indicate that the oceans’ carrying capacity (its ability to sustain human activities and their impacts) is near or at its limit and urgent action on a global scale is needed to protect what remains (Ref: WOA Summary (A/70/112), page 40).

Available online: Overview (PDF) | E-book | Full report (

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The assessment, though not a policy document, is intended to provide a scientific basis for action by governments, intergovernmental processes, policy-makers and others involved in ocean affairs. It offers a baseline for gauging the effectiveness of management and policy decisions and provides guidance in developing strategies and technologies to solve problems (Ref: WOA Preface by joint coordinators).

This overview looks at the results of the first WOA in a framework that distinguishes driving forces, pressures, states, impacts and responses (called the “DPSIR framework”). The DPSIR framework provides a structure to broadly examine the state of the world’s oceans and reflects the relationship between the marine environment and human activity.