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SDG 14: Life Below Water

Conserve and Sustainably Use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development


SDG 14 seeks to conserve and use the oceans, seas and marine resources sustainably. It aims to prevent and reduce marine pollution of all kinds, minimize and address the effects of ocean acidification and regulate fisheries exploitation, among other objectives.


Precipitation, drinking water, climate, coastlines, some food and oxygen in the air ultimately come from and are regulated by the sea. The oceans also provide critical natural resources such as food, medicines and biofuels. Seas and oceans facilitate and contribute to the removal of waste and pollution, and their coastal ecosystems are good buffers against storm damage.

Healthy seas and oceans will be a vital aid in adapting to climate change and mitigating its harmful effects. But not only this: marine protected areas are also a driver for poverty reduction, as they increase fisheries and with it people's incomes and health.

Despite the vital importance of the oceans, irresponsible exploitation over decades has led to an alarming level of degradation. Current efforts to protect marine environments and small-scale fisheries are only a stopgap for the current urgent need. However, the drastic reduction in human activity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, while driving part of the tragedy (on an economic level), is also an opportunity for ocean recovery.

The ocean is the largest carbon sink on the planet. It absorbs a third of the annual CO2 emissions generated by humans, helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change[1]. This great help provided by the sea, however, is not without its drawbacks: the absorbed CO2 causes seawater to become more acidic.

This acidity endangers many marine species, including coral reefs. Acidity ultimately shakes the marine food chain and has negative effects on its ecosystems, including fisheries, agriculture, coastal protection and transport or tourism. According to the SDG Progress Report (2020), ocean acidification shows an increase in pH variability of up to 10-30% over the last five years. By the end of the century, a large increase from 100 % acidity to 150 % is expected, affecting half of all marine life.

Sustainable development of the oceans depends on taking care of marine protected areas. These areas protect the most vulnerable species and ecosystems, ensuring biodiversity. According to the U.N´s World Database on Protected Areas , of 2021, 7,93% of waters under national jurisdiction were recognized as protected areas[2].

Moreover, countries have succeeded in reducing illegal fishing through a binding international agreement. However, more concrete action is needed as unreported and unregulated fishing continues to threaten the social, economic and global sustainability of the world's fisheries.

Reversing these figures requires urgent global action. This is why the United Nations (UN) has established the protection of underwater life as SDG 14 of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in September 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda.


The specific targets set for 2030 are:

  • Sustainably manage marine and coastal ecosystems.

  • Halt the loss of biological biodiversity and the degradation of natural habitats.

  • Address the effects of ocean acidification and regulate fisheries exploitation.

  • End poaching and trafficking of protected species and prevent the introduction of toxic and invasive species.

Almost half of the world’s population’s livelihood depends on the ocean. The majority of merchandise trade in the world happens through the sea. Ocean warming, lack of oxygen, acidification, water pollution, biodiversity loss, growing dead zones, and eutrophication are current marine issues that are out to be taken care of. Furthermore, investments, supports, and resources are not evenly contributed in the world even though it is a worldwide issue.

Marine research is the key element to protect ocean crisis. Consequently, more budget needs to be dedicated to the ocean research facility, technology, and equipment.

[1] National Geographic. Article. Huge amounts of greenhouse gases lurk in the oceans, and could make warming far worse. 2019.


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