The oceans are vast; they cover 75 % of the Earth’s surface and are so deep that despite our modern technology we’ve only just scratched the surface of ocean exploration. The oceans are home to over 200,000 identified species – although it is believed that there may be 2 million or more marine species yet to be discovered. Maybe the ocean, rather than space, is the final frontier? There may still be room for Jules Verne inspired imaginations of the wonders this blue marble holds.
But this vastness has also led us humans to perceive the oceans as infinitely durable and regenerative. The harsh realities are starting to hit home as we see fisheries disappearing, coral reefs dying, plastic washed up on our beaches and wondrous creatures going extinct. Our oceans and waterways are fragile and dying. The world is not becoming smaller; there is just increasingly less in it.
Sustainable Development Goal 14
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are intended as a blueprint for a better and more sustainable future, and addresses the global challenges faced by humanity from poverty and climate change to equality, peace and justice. The goals are wide-ranging and intrinsically linked; you cannot truly achieve one without the others and achieving the others, enhances the chance of achieving the one.
However, SDG 14 “Life Below Water” is essential for sustaining life – as Sylvia Earle so simply, yet eloquently say “No water, no life, no blue, no green”. We humans are on every level dependent on the oceans – from everyday survival (e.g. it is estimated that more than 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods) to the basic premise of existence – the ocean absorbs about 30 pct. of carbon dioxide produced by humans, but sadly the carbon emissions from human activities are causing ocean warming, acidification and oxygen loss. The oceans are, along with the trees of course, the lungs of our earth, and all life on land is inextricably connected to and dependent on the prosperity of life below water.
Heading for Green by protecting the Blue
A Green Heading is not only a mission to sail and experience the gems gifted to us by Mother Earth, but also to seek a greener way of life and to have a positive impact on the health and future of our planet. Some of us are lucky and privileged enough to be in a position, where we can try to impact the SDGs in a positive way. Our choices as consumers, our votes as citizens, our investments as financial actors and our voices as human beings – all of these bottom-up actions are part of the larger puzzle required to achieve the SDG’s.
We will begin with and keep our primary focus on SDG 14 also known as “Life Below Water”. In this section, we’ll strive to share “all good things from the sea” with you; the beautiful wonders we hope to encounter on our way, and how we can do our little part to protect and enhance the sustainability of our oceans.
“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.”Jacques-Yves Cousteau
The following targets of SDG14 intends to mitigate the threats facing our oceans today, and we will use these as our “point of departure” – we’ll take stock of the current status, look for positive stories inspiring hope and find initiatives aimed at fulfilling the targets set for a sustainable life below water.
14.1 By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.
Marine and coastal ecosystems
14.2 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 Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels
14.4 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 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 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
Small Island developing States (SIDS)
14.7 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 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
Small-scale artisanal fishers
14.B Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
The Future We Want
14.C 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
 UN Sustainable Development Goals, Take Action for the Sustainable Development Goals – United Nations Sustainable Development
 My wish: Protect our oceans by Sylvia Earle, February 2009