Global Goals Week 2021: SDG 14

SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

What is SDG 14?

Adopted in 2015 as a component of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 transformational objectives, Goal 14 highlights the need of conserving and using the world’s oceans, seas, and marine resources sustainably or simply, “Life Below Water.”

Goal 14 is guided by specific targets that address a range of ocean issues, including reducing marine pollution, protecting marine and coastal ecosystems, mitigating acidification, putting an end to illegal and overfishing, increasing investment in scientific knowledge and marine technology, and adhering to international law, which requires the safe and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources.

The sustainability of our oceans requires increased efforts to protect critical areas of biodiversity.

Marine protected areas have expanded substantially in area, with coverage comprising 7.74 percent of the world’s coastal seas and oceans by 2020. The 10% goal for 2020 may still be reached, since many sites scheduled for designation in 2020 have been delayed. Between 2000 and 2020, the average proportion of key biodiversity areas (KBAs) protected by protected areas increased from 28% to 44%. However, growth has stalled, with coverage increasing by only 1 percentage point over the past five years. On average, more than half of each KBA remains unprotected. Safeguarding KBAs is critical for the ocean’s survival. A recent example from the South Atlantic employed satellite tracking data for 14 seabird and seal species to identify critical breeding and feeding areas for these and other species. This data can be utilized to modify the management of a marine protected area, prolonging the closure of fisheries by two months and increasing numerous permanent no-fishing zones while still allowing for regulated commercial fishing.

Globally, the number of dead zones in coastal seas is increasing at an alarming pace.

Coastal regions, which are home to almost 40% of the world’s population, are increasingly threatened by eutrophication – excessive nutrient loading into coastal ecosystems as a consequence of human activity. Fertilizer run-off, animal waste, sewage discharge, aquaculture, and atmospheric nitrogen emissions are the main causes of eutrophication. Eutrophication of the coast is damaging to the ecosystem and coastal people, since it results in toxic algal blooms, hypoxia, fish deaths, seagrass die-off, loss of coral reef and nearshore hard-bottom habitats, and health risks for swimmers and fishermen. Globally, the number of dead zones — regions of water deficient in oxygen to sustain marine life – has risen from about 400 in 2008 to approximately 700 in 2019. Changes in eutrophication may be detected indirectly by evaluating algal growth and chlorophyll-a concentrations (the pigment that makes plants and algae green). According to global satellite data, countries’ exclusive economic zones had greater chlorophyll-a concentrations than baseline values from 2000–2004. Nonetheless, there are indications of progress: between 2018 and 2020, the incidence of chlorophyll-a anomalies in countries’ exclusive economic zones decreased by 20%. In certain places, efforts to decrease nutrient imports into coastal areas are producing results; nevertheless, algal blooms indicate that coastal eutrophication remains a problem.

The ocean’s health is inextricably linked to our own health. According to UNESCO, the ocean may serve as an ally in the fight against COVID-19: Bacteria discovered in the ocean’s depths are employed to perform quick tests for the presence of COVID-19. Additionally, the ocean’s variety of organisms holds tremendous potential for pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, the pandemic presents a chance to restore life to the ocean and kick-start the development of a healthy ocean industry. According to a report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the temporary cessation of activities, reduced human mobility, and reduced resource demands caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may provide marine environments with much-needed breathing space to begin to recover.

Fiji and the United Nations work together to expand impact investments in coral reefs and the blue economy.

Fiji is one of four nations chosen to receive funding under the United Nations Joint SDG Fund’s US$41 million portfolio to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) announced on March 2, 2021. The project proposal titled ‘Investing in Coral Reefs and the Blue Economy’ was chosen from 155 submissions from over 100 nations.

Three UN agencies, in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy, will establish a blended financing facility and strengthen the ability to mobilize private and public investment resources for private sector projects aimed at conserving and protecting coastal reefs and marine life habitats. Prudent management of this vital global resource is critical to ensuring a sustainable future. However, coastal waters are deteriorating continuously as a result of pollution, and ocean acidification is having a detrimental impact on the functioning of ecosystems and biodiversity. This also has a detrimental effect on small-scale fishing.

This shows that ocean’s understanding continues to improve. Sensor and autonomous observation platform advancements have resulted in a significant increase in ocean observations. Regional observation programs have grown in scope and integration, with improved coordination and integration. Thus, our ocean’s preservation must remain a priority. Marine biodiversity is important for human and environmental health. Marine protected areas must be maintained efficiently and sustainably, and laws must be implemented to curb overfishing, marine pollution, and ocean acidification.

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