There is substantial and unexplored potential for scientists to engage with the private sector for a sustainable ocean. The importance of such cooperation is a frequent emphasis of international dialogues and statements, it is embedded within the Sustainable Development Goals, and has been championed by prominent business leaders and scientists. But an uncritical embrace of science-industry collaboration is unhelpful, and candid reflections on the benefits and pitfalls that marine scientists can expect from actively engaging with the private sector are rare. In this Perspective, we draw on our collective experiences working with ocean industries in different parts of the world to reflect on how this has influenced our work, the effects these collaborations have generated, and the barriers to overcome for such partnerships to become more common. In doing so, we hope to help empower a new generation of marine scientists to explore collaboration with industry as a way to develop and scale up solutions for ocean sustainability.