It is widely accepted that mankind derives benefits from ecosystem services provided by the marine environment. It is less clear how these benefits can be quantified in order to make objective and responsible environmental management decisions. Providing an economic quantification of these benefits is one approach that can help. While it is relatively simple to derive monetary values for benefits accruing from activities with an economic basis, such as food provision and tourism, different approaches must be taken to provide economic values for services with less obvious links to economic activity. Here we demonstrate how a range of approaches may be used to derive economic values for three very different ecosystem services provided by marine environments, namely the bioremediation of waste by marine biota, the fixation of carbon dioxide by photosynthetic marine organisms, and the sea defence role provided by wetlands in coastal areas of the UK. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.