Goal 14: Life below Water

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

We human beings are destroying the oceans, although we need them to survive. They regulate the global ecosystem, influence the climate, and provide food and an income for many million people.

About 11 per cent of the world’s population depend on fishing for their livelihood, especially in coastal areas and on small island states. A large percentage of our water bodies is overfished, and the water is polluted, especially coastal waters. Small fishers are sinking into poverty and being forced to leave their homes. Coral reefs are dying. Species diversity is jeopardised. The conglomeration of huge quantities of plastic waste in our oceans is a particularly deadly and acute threat. The plastic is gradually ground down into small particles which are eaten by fish and seabirds. From there it enters our food chain.

What must be done?

The international community can only help restore our oceans to health by working together. More robust action must be taken to tackle illegal fishing, and non-sustainable forms of subsidies for the fishing industry must be ended. Industry and consumers are also called on to act. They must give precedence to products from sustainable fishing, and must stop throwing their rubbish into the sea. Everybody can do something to make our oceans healthy, be it eating fish from certified sources or renouncing the use of plastic packaging as far as possible. Stepping up investment into ocean research, and sharing findings with developing countries too, can help better protect oceans and coastal areas in future in political, environmental and economic terms.

Facts and figures

  • Oceans absorb about 30 per cent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, thus mitigating global temperature rise.
  • The oceans of our planet are home to almost 200,000 species. 20 per cent of the world’s coral reefs are irretrievably damaged and 24 per cent are in immediate grave danger.
  • 90 per cent of all fish stocks are deemed to be overfished or exploited to the limits of sustainability.
  • More than 200 million people work directly or indirectly in the fishing industry.

14.1 Clean seas

By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution

14.2 Stabilise ecosystems

By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans

14.3 Minimise ocean acidification

Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels

14.4 End overfishing

By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics

14.5 Conserve coastal and marine areas

By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information

14.6 Prohibit harmful subsidies

By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation

14.7 Sustainable use of marine resources

By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism

14.a Research and technology transfer

Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries

14.b Support small-scale artisanal fishers

Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets

14.c Apply international law

Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want

“Indonesia is one of the world’s most species-rich marine regions. It has more than 600 coral species and the highest diversity of reef fish in the world. An estimated 90 per cent of the coral reefs are currently at risk to a greater or lesser extent. So we have a lot of work to do.”


Source: Alumniportal interview

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