Ensuring the biodiversity and sustainability of the Earth’s oceans is the focus of sustainable development Goal 14. But signification challenges must be overcome. According to a recent update from the United Nations, “the expansion of protected areas for marine biodiversity and existing policies and treaties that encourage responsible use of ocean resources are still insufficient to combat the adverse effects of overfishing, growing ocean acidification due to climate change and worsening coastal eutrophication.”
Billions of people depend on oceans for their livelihood — and for food source – which means that more urgent intervention is needed to conserve and sustainably use ocean resources at all levels.
As the UN notes, reducing ocean acidification form CO2 is critical. Moreover, to achieve sustainable development of fisheries, fish stocks must be maintained at a biologically sustainable level. Since 1974, the sustainability of world marine fish stocks levels has decreased from 90 percent 66.9 percent.
Over-fishing and decreasing bio-diversity are also problems. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing remains one of the greatest threats to sustainable fisheries and the livelihoods of those who depend upon them and marine ecosystems.
“A framework of international instruments has been developed that addresses different aspects of fisheries management,” notes the UN report.”Most countries have taken measures to combat such fishing and have adopted an increasing number of fisheries management instruments in the past decade. For example, the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, the first international binding agreement to combat such fishing, entered into force in June 2016. The number of parties to the Agreement has rapidly increased and stood at 58 as of February 2019.
Finally, more countries need to focus on supporting small-scale fisheries. To promote small-scale fisheries, most countries have developed targeted regulatory and institutional frameworks. However, more than 20 percent of countries have a low to medium level of implementation of such frameworks, particularly in Oceania and Central and South Asia.
With the global ocean economy valued at $1.5 trillion annually, a healthy marine environment is an essential component of the United Nations’ sustainable development agenda. “Life under water is essential to life on land,” says UN General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande. “The ocean produces half of the oxygen we breathe and provides food for 3.2 billion people around the world.”