The Ocean makes planet Earth a habitable place to live and the marine environment is a source of vital human health benefits. Some of the invaluable benefits and services the Ocean provides include: Food: Seafood is a major food staple and protein source. Transportation: 90% of all EU external trade is transported by sea and European ship owners control almost 40% of the world fleet. Recreation: The benefits that can be derived from spending time around the Ocean are intangible. Marine tourism is the second most valuable world marine industry after shipping and transport. Medicine: Biomedical products derived from marine plants and animals provide important medicinal products and health benefits. Climate Regulation: The Ocean plays a key role in climate regulation - especially in buffering the effects of increasing levels of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere and by moderating rising global temperatures. Economy: Ocean - related industries provide revenue through fishing, seafood distribution, tourism, recreation and transportation. According to the EU Blue Growth programme, the ‘blue’ economy in Europe represents 5.4 million jobs and generates a gross added value of almost €500 billion a year, with further growth possible. The Ocean is vitally important to Europe. The 28 Member States have between them the largest maritime territory in the world (approximately 3.9 million km2 ) and all of us depend on the Ocean and its resources. Despite the importance of Europe’s sea areas, their sustainable development and protection faces threats from natural and human pressures. By better understanding the relationships between ourselves and the Ocean, we will be better able to protect these precious resources.