SDG 14: Life below water

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

Oceans are the source of life on the planet and the global climate system regulator. They are essential for making the planet livable. Rainwater, drinking water, and climate are all regulated by ocean temperatures and currents. The ocean absorbs around 23% of annual CO2 emissions generated by human activity and helps mitigate the impacts of climate change. The ocean also helps absorb more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system.

Over 3 billion people depend on marine life. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), marine fisheries provide 57 million jobs globally and provide the primary source of protein to over 50% of the population in the least developed countries.

Human activities (mainly since the industrial revolution) have been detrimental to oceans and maritime life. According to the United Nations, there’s been a 26% increase in acidification since the industrial revolution — threatening marine environments and ecosystem services. Coastal areas, home to almost 40% of the worlds’ population are facing growing risks from eutrophication – excess nutrient loading into coastal environments resulting from human activities. The number of dead zones worldwide (areas of water that lack sufficient oxygen to support marine life) increased from around 400 in 2008 to approximately 700 in 2019.

An estimated 5 to 12 million metric tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year, costing roughly $13 billion per year, including clean-up costs and financial losses in fisheries and other industries.

According to the 2020 report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, the current efforts to protect oceans, marine environments, and small-scale fishers are not meeting the need to protect the resources. On average, only 1.2% of national research budgets were allocated to ocean science between 2013 and 2017, with amounts ranging from 0.02% to 9.5%. This represents a small proportion given the OECD's estimation of the $1.5 trillion year contribution of the ocean to the global economy.

Sustainable Development Goal #14 is a wake-up call for nations, organizations, and individuals to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

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