The 2015 Oceans and Us report by Neumann et al. outlines how the successful achievement of 10 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is contingent on global ocean health (SDG 14).

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to provide a blueprint for achieving economic, ecological and social sustainability for all. 

ocean sustainable development goals

Oceans cover over 70% of the Earth’s surface and contain 97% of the earth’s water. Oceans produce half of the oxygen we breathe, and from it emerges much of the food we eat. They enable global transport and world trade, and are a source of employment for many millions of people across the globe. We’ve always depended on the sea as a species, some scientists even believe our high body fat for mammals was an adaptation to help us stay warm when in water. Oceans are intertwined with all manners of human life and wellbeing and are therefore their health is instrumental to our health.

Studies in the last decades have found that human activity has damaged every part of the oceans except in some remote Pacific areas and the poles. A combination of damaging fishing practices, shipping and pollution running off our land has left a trace in ~87% of the largest ecosystem we know of. 

Here is a brief insight into some of the ways in which healthy oceans support a number of other Sustainable Development Goals:

SDG 1: No Poverty

SDG 2: Zero Hunger 

SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing  

SDG 5: Gender Equality 

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth 

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities 

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

SDG 13: Climate Action 

SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Institutions 

These connections are not always visible, and as a result, oceans have been critically undervalued. This week it was reported that Japan is considering dumping treated radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima plant into the ocean. And the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in increased marine plastic pollution due to the rise in single use medical equipment.

Ambitious initiatives are underway, such as the 30×30 project, aiming to protect 30% of the world’s ocean area by 2030. Past cases have shown that creating protected zones benefits both ocean life and ourselves, and the rebounding fish populations then provide greater yields for less energy expenditure. The definition of a win-win. 

This article was written by Lola Robinson. Cover Photo by David Clode on Unsplash.