The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals aim to ensure the sustainable use of marine resources and our oceans, lakes, rivers, and other waters. In addition to providing coastal communities with their livelihood, the UN estimates that our oceans and waters contribute $28 trillion dollars per year in ecosystem services. These benefits include regulating global temperatures, weather patterns, and absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide.
In particular, Goal 14 seeks to address the challenges of over-fishing, illegal fishing, ocean acidification, and runoff pollution. The UN has set the following targets:
- Address and minimize the consequences of ocean acidification
- Restore ocean ecosystems, with special attention to strengthening their resilience
- Protect and conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas
- End overfishing, illegal fishing, and work to conserve at least percent of coastal and marine areas
- Assist least developed and small island nations in their use of marine resources through financial assistance, knowledge and technology transfer, and protective legal frameworks
In this collection, we learn about coastal communities rethinking their relationship to the sea, hoping to make life below water more resilient, and their own livelihoods sustainable. Residents of the Island Garden City of Samal are embracing conservation and ecotourism as a way to ensure that giant clam populations persist. In Indonesia, regions of the Nibung River are closed for several months to allow populations of fish and crabs to recover. Reducing our use of plastic is another important step toward reducing marine pollution and debris. The island country of Vanuatu has introduced bans on many single-use plastics, a shift welcomed by the its residents.
We also learn about the importance of preserving freshwater ecosystems. During the twentieth century, the United States witnessed a flurry of dam building for hydroelectric power. As these dams have aged, their contributions to power grids have also diminished. Read about the Elwha River and Glines Cayon dam to see what environmental changes result from decommissioning dams.
Click here for more stories in the Solutions Story Tracker on life below water.
- After reading the article by Laura Villadiego, describe what tools are in place to help advance the goal of reducing illegal fishing. What other benefits have these tools had for the communities that use them?
- Define the terms “eutrophication” and “hypertrophication.” Explain their significance to marine ecosystems.
- What is “coral bleaching” and how does it relate to ocean acidification? Explain what has contributed to the roughly 26% rise in ocean acidification levels since pre-industrial times, as reported by the UN.
- What are some arguments for and against the use of hydroelectric power? What do the lessons of the Elwah and Glines Canyon dams illustrate about the value of small hydropower projects when compared alongside their environmental impact?
- Examine at least two other SDGs and their targets alongside Goal 14. Then, either explain or illustrate how the targets of these SDGs relate or influence one another.
- Choose an Issue Area or a Success Factor related to Goal 14. Then, create a collection and select at least 4 (or more) stories from the Solution’s Story Tracker that relate to your topic. If working with groups, each group can present on the issues and solutions they found most compelling.
- Vessel Monitoring Mechanisms (VMM) and electronic catch documentation (eCDT) track the origin of fish headed to market, part of an international effort to ensure sustainable and equitable practices. Data transmission also makes fishermen safer, relaying their locations from hundreds of miles out at sea. In the Philippines, a partnership between Futuristic Aviation and Maritime Enterprise (FAME) and USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership helps cover subscription fees for FAME radio transmitter service.
- Eutrophication and hypertrophication refer to an increase in nutrients or minerals in water, caused primarily by agricultural runoff. Eutrophication and hypertrophication cause algal blooms, which can have devastating impacts on marine ecosystems. Algal blooms can both block sunlight and deplete oxygen, causing significant impacts to sea and freshwater ecosystems.
- Coral bleaching occurs when stressed corals expel the algae that live on them. Since the algae provide a significant source of nutrients for the coral, this results in the coral dying. Coral bleaching is a result of changes in ocean temperatures and can be exacerbated by ocean acidification, which causes coral to be more stressed, brittle and less resilient. Ocean acidification occurs as result of increased atmospheric carbon, which is then absorbed by the earth’s oceans, creating carbonic acid. Climate Interpreter and the Earth Journalism Network provide some additional resources to learn about ocean acidification and its impact.
- Many dams constructed across the US during the early and mid-twentieth century face increasing operating costs as they age. Because these dams often provide only small contributions to overall power generation, their cost of operation faces calculations of diminishing returns, especially when consider alongside the significant impact they have on ecosystems. The case of salmon in the Pacific Northwest is particularly important, as the fish provide a significant economic resources for the region. Read more about the question of dam decommissioning and the case of the Elwha river dam.
- Answers will vary by student. Goal 14 especially rates to SDGs 2, 3, 6, 12, 13, 15, 17.
- Answers will vary—for more on creating collections, click here. For more on Success Factors, click here.