Ocean accounts as an approach to foster, monitor, and report progress towards sustainable development in a changing ocean – The Systems and Flows Model

Publication Name

Marine Policy


Ocean systems are changing due to natural and anthropogenic processes. Ocean resource use is changing as coastal nations have emphasised the opportunity to advance ocean activities to foster economic growth and food, energy, and job security, facilitated by new technologies. The expansion and diversification of ocean-dependent activities increase pressures on the ocean. To ensure current and future opportunities arising from ocean resource use activities, it is critical to prioritise the sustainable development of ocean activities, balancing and bridging ocean health, wealth, and the equitable distribution of opportunities. Historically, economic indicators guide economic expansion, investment, and strategic planning. However, such monetary metrics provide limited information on resource-use sustainability or income distribution, benefits and costs (sectoral inclusivity), hampering their utilisation for environmental and societal decision making. Accordingly, accounting systems that go beyond economic metrics alone and integrate societal, economic and environmental information to measure and manage progress towards ocean sustainable development are essential. This integration is best achieved by incorporating these three domains into a consistent and standard ocean accounting (OA) framework based on established and novel accounting standards. This publication describes the novel OA framework and its components; highlights its use opportunities, benefits, and challenges; and presents the Systems and Flows Model (SaFM) for OA. The SaFM represents the OA framework as a system of systems, evidencing the various accounting standards it integrates and the flows between them.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access



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Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK Government



Link to publisher version (DOI)