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Ocean Policy Brief: Monitoring Sustainable Development Goal 14 on the ocean
Posted on 14 November 2018

This article is an extract of Ocean Policy Brief Monitoring Sustainable Development Goal 14 on the ocean (#Issue 1, 2018).

This policy brief explains the role of Sustainable Development Goal 14 on the Ocean and points to the related major initiatives of the United Nations through a short interview with Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. It sets out the relevance of indicators for monitoring the SDG 14 agenda, illustrates progress in this area globally and nationally in France and South Africa, goes over certain coordination challenges andhighlights future areas of research.

What are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
On 25th September 2015, the 193 Member States ofthe United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda is the world’s first global agreement to provide a comprehensive agenda for action to support transformations towards social, economic and environmental sustainability. Its 17 SDGs and 169 targets will guide the activities of a wide range ofstakeholders over the next 14 years.

Interview: Vladimir Ryabinin
Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and Assistant Director General of UNESCO
The Ocean Conference is the high-level United Nations Conference supporting the implementation of SDG 14 and was held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in June 2017. The Conference aimed to be the gamechanger in reversing the decline in the health of our ocean for people, the planet and prosperity.

What was the main advance of the Ocean Conference?
The conference reflected a major change in awareness and public engagement to reverse the deterioration of our ocean. It brought together over 4,000 participants from governments, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, academia, the scientific community and the private sector. More than 1,400 voluntary commitments to support SDG 14 were made by the different stakeholders.

What is the follow-up to the Ocean Conference?
A second conference will be held in Lisbon in May 2020. This will be a first milestone to monitor progress on the four SDG 14 targets 14.2, 14.4, 14.5 and 14.6 that should be attained by 2020. In addition, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) will coordinate the preparatory process of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), which seeks to transform and bolster the SDG 14 commitments.

What was the Ocean University Initiative’s contribution to the Ocean Conference?
The participants in the Ocean Conference were invited to make voluntary commitments that aim to contribute to the implementation of SDG 14. Under the #OceanAction21076 engagement, the University of Brest (UBO) committed to propose to the United Nations University the establishment in France of an institute dedicated to the "science and governance of the ocean and coasts" with the support of French oceanographic research organizations, state ministries and local authorities in Brittany. The project will support the voice of the ocean and coasts by joining forces with civil society, with a special focus on capacity building in the Southern ocean. More information is available at: https://oceanconference.un.org/commitments/?id=21076


What is SDG 14 on the ocean?
The SDG 14 - “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” - can be considered as a tool to address sustainable development processes on the ocean in both developed and developing countries and to facilitate action at all levels and with all actors, including civil society, the private sector and the scientific community to strengthen the capacity of the State to achieve the desired outcomes. The SDG 14 targets cover environmental pressures on marine life due to economic activities. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and coastal communities are especially impacted by these environmental pressures as well as being dependent on marine resources in socio-economic terms.

Why are indicators necessary for the implementation of SDG 14?
A comprehensive framework of indicators is needed for the implementation of SDG 14 to monitor progress, inform policy and ensure the accountability of each stakeholder. The Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG indicators (IAEG-SDGs) proposed a global indicator framework that the United Nations General Assembly adopted in March 2016 to track progress at the global level and for collective action towards achieving the 17 SDGs. Global monitoring
should be based, as much as possible, on comparable national data that countries should report to the international statistical system. At the global level, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is the custodian agency for four (14.4.1, 14.6.1, 14.7.1, 14.b) of the 10 SDG 14 indicators1. Member States of the United Nations should also develop more detailed indicators at the regional and national levels to track success at these levels.

1. Source : FAO (2017)


Table 1 : SDG 14 targets

  • 14.1 By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds
  • 14.2 By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts
  • 14.3 Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientifi c cooperation at all levels
  • 14.4 By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fi shing and destructive fi shing practices
  • 14.5 By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas
  • 14.6 By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fi sheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfi shing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing
  • 14.7 By 2030, increase the economic benefi ts to small island developing States and least developed countries
    from the sustainable use of marine resources
  • 14.a Increase scientifi c knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology
  • 14.b Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
  • Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international

Source : ONU (2015).

Global indicators

The SDG 14 targets were selected for their policy relevance, independently of the availability of indicators. Consequently, most indicators do not yet exist and there is a need to propose and build at least one relevant indicator for each target to enable monitoring. Eight out of 10 global indicators are currently not available for SDG 14 compared to 58% for all SDG global indicators. The United Nations Statistics Division currently provides open access to the two available SDG 14 global indicators, namely, 14.4.1 on the proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels and 14.5.1 on the coverage of protected areas in relation to marine areas. The dates by when the remaining global indicators for SDG 14 should be available are indicated in Table 2. There is, for instance, no set date for the availability of a global indicator for target 14.7 on sustainable fisheries which concerns, among other countries, SIDS. Indeed, fisheries in SIDS have been threatened by overexploitation, land-based pollution and inadequate fisheries’ monitoring, control and surveillance systems. Member States are invited to complement global
indicators with national indicators that are relevant for national policies or for national stakeholders.

Table 2 : SDG 14 global indicators: sources and availability


Target SDG14 Global Indicator Source Availability
14.1 14.1.1 Index of coastal eutrophication (i) and floating plastic debris density (ii) UNEP in coopération with IOC-UNESCO from 2021
14.2 14.2.1 Proportion of national exclusive economic zones managed using ecosystem-based approaches UNEP in cooperation with  IOC-UNESCO from 2021

14.3.1 Average marine acidity (pH) measured at agreed suite of representative sampling stations

IOC-UNESCO in cooperation with UNEP After 2020
14.4 14.4.1 Proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels FAO 1974-2013
14.5 14.5.1 Coverage of protected areas in relation to
marine areas
UNEP’s World Conservation
Monitoring Centre, BirdLife Index, UICN
14.6 14.6.1 Progress by countries in the degree of
implementation of international instruments aiming to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing



  • Fisheries Support Estimate
  • Policies against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

After 2017




From 2018


14.7 14.7.1 Sustainable fisheries as a proportion of gross domestic product in small island developing states, least developed countries and all countries




No set date
14.a 14.a.1 Progress by countries in the degree of
application of a legal/regulatory/policy/institutional framework which recognizes and protects access rights for small-scale fisheries
IOC-UNESCO in cooperation with UNEP From 2018
14.b 14.b.1 Progress by countries in the degree of
application of a legal/regulatory/policy/institutional framework which recognizes and protects access rights for small-scale fisheries
FAO From 2016
14.c 14.c.1 Number of countries making progress in
ratifying, accepting and implementing through legal, policy and institutional frameworks ocean-related instruments that implement international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, for the conservation and sustainable use of
the oceans and their resources
United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office
for Legal Affairs
No set date

Source : OCDE (2017)

Click to read the full Ocean Policy Brief: OCEAN-univ - Policy brief #EN SDG