Oceans cover 70% of the Earth’s surface and support an extraordinarily diverse world. More than one million species live on coral reefs alone, and perhaps as many as 10 million in the deep seas. But only a fraction of these have been discovered so far and much of ocean life remains a mystery. IUCN experts are striving to unveil it and here you get the chance to see some of the weird and wonderful creatures that have recently been seen for the first time.

The oceans make an enormous contribution to the world’s economy—coastal and marine ecosystem goods and services (fisheries, tourism, coastal protection and so on) have been valued at US$ 12.6 trillion annually. But the simple truth is that without healthy and fully functioning oceans to regulate our climate, absorb carbon and provide food and other resources to billions of people, our future survival could be severely compromised.

Less than 1% of the oceans are protected, a woefully inadequate figure considering the barrage of threats they face including climate change, over-fishing, pollution, invasive species and oil and gas exploration that are wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems and the lives of those who depend on them.

But IUCN and its partners are working hard to increase this level of protection: this month we highlight IUCN’s work with governments, industry, the United Nations and its Member organizations to reduce impacts, restore marine ecosystems and to move ocean conservation up the international political agenda.

One important collaboration is the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative which will advance the scientific basis for conserving biologically-rich areas in the deep and open seas. We are also starting to explore seamounts—undersea mountains—to work out how to maintain them as safe havens for biodiversity including commercially-valuable fish species.

The Deepwater Horizon tragedy has highlighted the growing threat of deep-water oil and gas extraction especially as these activities spread into even more vulnerable areas such as the Arctic. But there is much that can be done to minimize the risks. IUCN is forming a bridge between large industries and the scientific community to reduce the impacts of industrial activities on vulnerable species and ecosystems from western gray whales in the western Pacific to coral reef communities in Yemen and shallow water habitats of the North and Baltic Sea.

You’ll find a wealth of interesting information about the world of marine conservation in our package of stories, interviews and videos. Read about the fascinating work of some of our marine scientists; learn about the long term impacts of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill; find out how holiday makers and tour operators are becoming more engaged in the conservation of coastal destinations; learn about the impacts of offshore energy infrastructure on biodiversity, and find out what’s needed to protect the High Seas.

And when you’ve done all of that, test your knowledge by tackling our quiz!