The health of the ocean, central to human well-being, has now reached a critical point. Most fish stocks are overexploited, climate change and increased dissolved carbon dioxide are changing ocean chemistry and disrupting species throughout food webs, and the fundamental capacity of the ocean to regulate the climate has been altered. However, key technical, organizational, and conceptual scientific barriers have prevented the identification of policy levers for sustainability and transformative action. Here, we recommend key strategies to address these challenges, including: (1) stronger integration of sciences and (2) ocean-observing systems, (3) improved science-policy interfaces, (4) new partnerships supported by (5) a new ocean-climate finance system, and (6) improved ocean literacy and education to modify social norms and behaviors. Adopting these strategies could help establish ocean science as a key foundation of broader sustainability transformations.