Tag Archives: SDG14

Maintaining Healthy Ocean Fisheries to Support Livelihoods: Achieving SDG 14 in Europe

By Karmenu Vella

“The problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be considered as a whole.” So says the preamble to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea—and never were those words more apt than in relation to the challenges we face today.

As global actors, the European Union (EU) and its member States share the fundamental obligation and responsibility to protect, conserve and sustainably use the oceans and their resources. We know that healthy and productive oceans are key to long-term sustainable development. We believe there is an urgent need to take action and tackle social, economic and environmental issues so that the oceans, the seas and their resources can support the livelihoods of coastal communities and continue to provide for future generations.

We are therefore strongly committed to the successful implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14), which, for the first time, calls on the global community to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.

By including healthy fisheries among the SDGs, the United Nations and global civil society have affirmed the importance of fisheries for global food security and employment, as well as their contribution to alleviating poverty. Despite our international commitments, however, fish stocks in many areas continue to be overexploited. Urgent action at both the national and regional levels is needed to tackle this problem, and in particular to preserve stocks and restore them to sustainable levels.

Such action should involve implementing science-based management measures; applying a precautionary approach when scientific knowledge is limited; stepping up the fight against illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, including through the use of catch documentation schemes and port State measures; and managing by-catch and discards.

The EU is leading the way in the creation of a stronger system of ocean governance. On 10 November 2016, the European Commission and the EU High Representative set out a joint agenda for the future of our oceans, proposing 50 actions for safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans in Europe and around the world.

One of the priorities of my mandate as European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries is the implementation of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP),1 which entered into force in January 2014 with the aim of ensuring that fishing and aquaculture are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. Not only does this provide EU citizens with healthy and traceable food, it also fosters a dynamic fishing industry and ensures a fair standard of living for fishing communities.

The Policy is designed to manage a common resource sustainably. It gives all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds. It sets rules for making European fishing fleets sustainable and for the conservation of fish stocks. In particular, CFP sets out a legal obligation to reach maximum sustainable yield (MSY) as soon as possible and by 2020 at the latest, ensuring that fishermen only take as much from the sea as can be sustained in the long term.

To do this, the European Commission proposes annual total allowable catches (TACs) for most commercial stocks in EU waters. The proposed quantities are set with a view to ensuring MSY, based on scientific advice and economic analysis from independent bodies. Once TACs have been set, EU member States are assigned national quotas, complemented by technical measures, in particular to help protect fragile habitats.

In addition, almost all important stocks and fisheries are maintained by means of multi-annual plans that set the goal for fish stock management in terms of fishing mortality and/or targeted stock size. Some plans also set out a detailed and tailor-made road map for achieving the objective. Some multi­annual plans include fishing effort restrictions as an additional instrument to TACs and specific control rules.

Yet the impact of fishing on the fragile marine environment is difficult to fully grasp and foresee. This is why CFP adopts a precautionary and an ecosystem approach that takes into account the impact of human activity on all components of the ecosystem and seeks to ensure that fisheries and aquaculture activities do not contribute in any way to the degradation of the marine environment. In particular, it seeks to make fishing fleets more selective in what they catch, and to phase out the wasteful practice of discarding unwanted fish. By 2019, all European fisheries will be covered by the landing obligation, prohibiting the practice of throwing unwanted catches back into the sea.

The first signs that our work is paying off are already being seen. Fisheries in Europe are making steady progress towards our sustainability target. In the North-East Atlantic, including the North and Baltic Seas, the push towards sustainability is both widespread and visible. While in the early 2000s most stocks were overfished, today more than half of the assessed stocks are managed sustainably, including many of the largest and commercially most valuable stocks.

This is not just good news for fish stocks, but for fishermen as well. New European Commission data finds that, with net profit margins at 10 per cent, the EU fleet made large profits in 2014, thus increasing its economic performance significantly compared to 2008. Progress, however, has not been uniform: fish stocks in the Mediterranean and Black Seas continue to fare poorly and are still overfished. As our scientific knowledge of these seas improves, the challenges to fisheries in the area become obvious.

That is why the European Commission is taking action. From 29 to 30 March 2017, we hosted a ministerial conference in Malta on Mediterranean fisheries, bringing together ministers from EU and non-EU countries in the Mediterranean basin. The conference culminated in the signature of the Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration, which will provide a significant political push to address the alarming state of stocks and its impact on the industry and coastal communities of the Mediterranean basin over the next 10–15 years.

We know that our goals are ambitious—and that is why the European Commission is supporting member States in implementing CFP. Funds are available to help fishermen adapt to a changing environment and to support coastal communities in diversifying their economies, creating new jobs and ultimately improving the quality of life along European coasts and beyond. For the period between 2014 and 2020, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund2 alone is making 5.7 billion euros available to member States. In addition, the European Commission is also supporting marine science under its research programme Horizon 2020.

Step by step, these instruments are taking us closer to our objective of healthy oceans and thriving coastal communities across Europe. But much more still needs to be done, and no actors can protect the ocean on their own. This is why the European Commission is working closely with its member States and seeking to cooperate with its neighbours and international partners.

The oceans are a heritage we all share. Their protection is our common responsibility. The European Union is looking forward to the Ocean Conference, to be held at the United Nations in New York from 5 to 9 June 2017, and to hosting the Our Ocean Conference from 5 to 6 October 2017 in Malta, where world leaders will gather to send a strong message of unity in the quest to save our oceans and seas and deliver high-level commitments to that end.



1       Information on the Common Fisheries Policy is available from https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp_en.

2       Information on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund is available from https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/emff_en.

Author bio: Karmenu Vella is European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

A Sea of Islands: How a Regional Group of Pacific States Is Working to Achieve SDG 14

By Dame Meg Taylor


The health of our oceans is fundamental to the health of our planet. Ninety-eight per cent of the area occupied by Pacific Island countries and territories is ocean. We sometimes refer to ourselves as Big Ocean Stewardship States in recognition of this geography. The Pacific Ocean is at the heart of our cultures and we depend on it for food, income, employment, transport and economic development.

There are tensions inherent in these relationships. The ocean unites and divides us. It connects and separates us, it sustains us and, at the same time, can be a threat to our very existence. These tensions have often encouraged us to work together for the good of our people. The ocean has been a catalyst for regionalism.

For decades, we have seen overfishing, the increasing burden of pollution, a warming of water temperatures and rising sea levels. These have profound, damaging effects on our ocean and its ecosystems. But we also see that the ocean has an incredible ability to adapt and regenerate if it is given the chance.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent an opportunity to address the urgent need to focus on the health, integrity and longevity of our world’s oceans. SDG 14—dealing with “life below water”—gives us hope that the ocean can sustain and provide for us as it always has. This requires rethinking the way we sustainably manage our oceanic resources. We recognize that there must be transformational change in attitude and behaviour. We must come together if we are to succeed as citizens, communities, governments and countries.

Progress towards SDG 14 will be more challenging than achieving almost any of the other goals, given that 70 per cent of our planet’s surface is ocean and the ecosystems within them are fundamental to life itself. We simply have no choice but to do better.

The Pacific Ocean is in us—it has long been a teacher for our people. For generations we have observed and respected its mana, sharing what we have learned from our ancestors with our children. In saying that, we recognize that our traditional knowledge can be complemented by the science and technology that offer new approaches to the sustainable management and conservation of our ocean, as we adapt to a rapidly changing environment. It is vital that we actively participate in and support the innovations and insights that are emerging.

Sustainable Management of Our Ocean

Not surprisingly, the Pacific Islands Forum, the premiere political grouping of Pacific island countries and territories, has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to managing our ocean. In fact, the United Nations Law of the Sea was a point of discussion during the historic first meeting of the Forum in 1971.1 Through the Forum, the Pacific region already has a collaborative and integrated ocean management system in place. The Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy2 promotes “sustainable development, management and conservation of marine and coastal resources in the Pacific region” through five guiding principles based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.3

The Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape4 catalyses regional action and initiatives covering an area of approximately 40 million square kilometres of ocean and island ecosystems. It strengthens the Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy, particularly through stronger provisions in the areas of coordination, resourcing and implementation. It also aspires to protect, manage and sustain the cultural and natural integrity of the ocean for present and future generations of the broader global community.5 At its heart is a desire to build pride, leadership, learning and cooperation across the ocean environment.

More recently, Forum Leaders issued the Palau Declaration on “The Ocean: Life and Future” (2014)6 and the Pohnpei Ocean Statement: A Course to Sustainability (2016).7 Both statements speak to the interconnections between the ocean and the lives of Pacific people, as well as our ongoing commitment to care for the ocean for our well-being.

The renewed focus on ocean policy, brought about through the pursuit of SDG 14, gives us a chance to continue to build on these existing guidelines and policy commitments.

The Pacific Ocean Commissioner

The Pacific Islands Forum sees a fundamental role for genuine, appropriate and durable partnerships for moving the ocean agenda forward. Recognizing that these partnerships must go beyond Governments, the Forum established the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner in 2014.

As the Commissioner, my responsibilities include the provision of high level representation and advocacy to Pacific Ocean priorities decisions and processes. My office works to unite Pacific countries and territories through strengthened coordination, collaboration and integration of cross-sectoral ocean issues, such as protecting biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction and zone-based management. The office also seeks to improve accountability by developing coordinated approaches to measurement and reporting, and undertakes analysis of the linkages between oceans and climate change, to ensure the Pacific region is well placed to meet the environmental challenges ahead.

Pacific Ocean Alliance

A key achievement of my term as the Pacific Ocean Commissioner has been the facilitation of the establishment of the Pacific Ocean Alliance. The Alliance is a network of private, public and civil sector representatives acting together to advance approaches to integrated ocean management.

It is an open-ended and voluntary information-sharing and coordination partnership between stakeholders with a genuine interest in the sustainable development, management and conservation of the Pacific Ocean and its resources. The Alliance provides a space and common ground to bring together national government agencies, regional, private sector, research and civil society organizations and communities not previously represented to work on ocean issues in a coordinated manner. The Alliance is a mechanism for inclusive consultation in the development and implementation of ocean policy, coordinating the provision of technical assistance and support as it relates to the sustainable development, management and conservation of the ocean for Pacific Island countries and territories.

Leadership in Ocean Management

I am proud of several noteworthy and demonstrable achievements that have been made in the Pacific through innovation and exemplary leadership. They include the effective, sustainable and economically rewarding strategic initiative of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, a sub-regional grouping that has significantly increased the revenue earned by member countries by introducing the Vessel Day Scheme for purse seine fishing across their exclusive economic zones. This innovative fisheries management approach has been particularly successful in shifting the balance of power, control and influence, while demonstrating greater stewardship and sustainability.

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency oversees a world class regional monitoring, control and surveillance framework for our tuna fisheries. Operating out of the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre in Honiara in the Solomon Islands, the framework has been praised for its combination of tools, programs, assets and activities at the national and regional levels that achieve valuable results for its members.

Another regional example is the approach adopted by local communities to manage and sustainably use their coastal and marine areas, over which they have traditional or more recently assigned tenure rights or ownership. This is the mainstay of the work of Locally Managed Marine Area Network and national initiatives, such as those in Samoa and Tonga. The lessons from these experiences serve as valuable templates for the future sustainable use of ocean resources.

Facing Challenges Together

The ocean is dynamic and transcends borders. As such, it impacts almost all our development aspirations. In my mind, the Pacific is a blue continent. A sea of islands.

For us, the pursuit of SDG 14 has not just commenced. Decades of investment and learning in integrated ocean management have already taken place, and it is incumbent upon us all to ensure that communities share knowledge with their countries, and in turn, that countries share knowledge with their region, and regions share it with the world.

We have long known that more can be achieved when we face shared challenges together. The health and well­being of our ocean is an existential challenge that demands regional unity to address it. As Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of Solomon Islands said, “we cannot manage the oceans but instead need to manage the behaviour of people who use the ocean”. This is ancient wisdom for us in the Pacific. I view the renewed focus and energy behind SDG 14 as a gift for teaching the world about the connectivity, complexity and value of the ocean. Everyone must come to understand that their behaviour will ultimately decide the fate of our oceans. For my people of the Pacific, our fate is immutably entwined with the health of our ocean.



1       Joint Final Communique: South Pacific Forum, Wellington, New Zealand, 5-7 August 1971, p. 3. Available from http://www.forumsec.org/resources/uploads/attachments/documents/1971%20Communique­Wellington%205-7%20Aug.pdf.

2       Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy and Framework for Integrated Strategic Action (Noumea-Cedex, New Caledonia, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, 2005). Available from http://www.forumsec.org/resources/uploads/attachments/documents/PIROP.pdf.

3       For further information, see the webpage of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. Available from http://www.forumsec.org/pages.cfm/strategic-partnerships-coordination/pacific-oceanscape/key-ocean­policies-declarations.html.

4       Cristelle Pratt and Hugh Govan, Our Sea of Islands, Our Livelihoods, Our Oceania. Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape: a Catalyst for Implementation of Ocean Policy (2010). Available from http://www.forumsec.org/resources/uploads/embeds/file/Oceanscape.pdf.

5       For further information, see the webpage of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. Available from http://www.forumsec.org/pages.cfm/ strategic-partnerships-coordination/pacific-oceanscape/key-ocean­policies-declarations.html.

6       Palau Declaration on ‘The Ocean: Life and Future’, (2014). Available from http://www.forumsec.org/resources/uploads/attachments/ documents/AnnexB_Palau_Declaration_on_The_Ocean_Life_and_Future.pdf.

7       “Pohnpei ocean statement: a course to sustainability”, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, 11 September 2016. Available from http://www.fsmpio.fm/announcements/forum/Annex3%20_A_Course_to_Sustainability.pdf.


Author bio: Dame Meg Taylor is Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum and Pacific Ocean Commissioner.

Mobilizing the Global Community to Achieve SDG 14

By Amina J. Mohammed

One of the most intellectually engaging, politically challenging and personally gratifying periods of my life was the time I spent as an adviser to former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, working with Member States and people across the world to articulate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Adopted by world leaders at a moving ceremony in 2015, this landmark plan, encapsulated in 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), points the way towards a future of dignity, prosperity and peace for all. At this still-early stage in our efforts to seize the Agenda’s potential and fulfil its promises, I am deeply honoured to have been asked by current Secretary-General António Guterres to serve as his Deputy, and thereby to again serve the world’s people in this essential work.

I know from the economy and experiences of my own country, Nigeria, that the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources is integral to the 2030 Agenda and its goals to end extreme poverty and hunger, and to promote peaceful and sustainable social and economic development for all nations. With oceans now near or at the limit of their ability to provide for human needs and remain viable ecosystems, only the United Nations can mobilize the type of transformative action needed at the global, regional and national level to reverse this trend.

In many coastal developing countries and small island developing States, maintaining and restoring the health and resilience of coastal and marine ecosystems, such as mangroves and coral reefs, are vital for protection from natural hazards such as extreme storms and sea level rise. They are also essential for promoting food security, protecting livelihoods and safeguarding broader economic development. Marine fisheries provide jobs for 300 million people and help meet the nutritional needs of 3 billion people. The role of fisheries is particularly profound in many of the world’s poorest communities, where fish are a critical source of protein, essential micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids. The fishing sector provides a social safety net, particularly for women, who are a majority in secondary activities related to marine fisheries and marine aquaculture, such as fish processing and marketing.

The oceans are also experiencing major stress from climate change. Globally, the sea level has risen by 20 centimetres since the start of the twentieth century, due mostly to thermal expansion of the oceans and melting of glaciers and ice caps. Some regions are experiencing even greater sea level rise. General warming trends, massive episodes of coral bleaching, acidification and the sea level rise are affecting eco­systems in all regions, threatening fisheries, food chains and the oceans’ ability to act as efficient carbon sinks. Warmer temperatures are causing more extreme weather events, and a projected two-metre rise in sea levels by the end of the century would be catastrophic for coastal habitats and economies. Hundreds of millions of people are at risk.

Here, too, the situation in Nigeria offers a vivid example of the threat. The coastline is vital for the people of Lagos State and the Niger Delta, who make up 19 per cent of Nigeria’s population and face high vulnerability due to poverty, population rise, urbanization, water pollution and poor health, sanitation and land use. Lagos, in particular, is at a risk of coastal erosion and inundation. While some degree of erosion occurs naturally, human activities, such as the construction of ports and oil production facilities, the damming of rivers and sand mining, are aggravating the danger. The Niger Delta, which contributes 35 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and 90 per cent of export revenue, is experiencing extensive biodiversity loss, deforestation, overfishing and a loss of spawning grounds due to the destruction of mangroves. Oil spills continue to devastate the oceans and rivers.

These examples illustrate that the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources goes far beyond the need for mitigation and adaptation to climate impacts. It must encompass all ocean-related activities, including fisheries and aquaculture, land-based sources of pollution, tourism, transportation and new ocean-based industries such as offshore renewable energy and marine biotechnology. All the challenges to the oceans are of humanity’s making; all can be reversed by our concerted, coordinated action. That is the object of SDG 14 and all the interrelated Goals.

The United Nations and its specialized agencies are already assisting developing countries to work towards the interrelated targets of SDG 14. The key to this work is harmonizing economic development and ocean health. We cannot continue, let alone accelerate, the changes we are causing to ocean ecosystems. That is why the United Nations system is working with Governments and international private sector and civil society organizations to strengthen governance structures and promote the implementation of international legal instruments and various management tools, such as integrated coastal zone management and marine spatial planning, and to facilitate a coordinated approach to the application of law and policies for environmental protection and sustainable economic development.

Looking ahead, four steps are especially important.

First, mobilizing high-level leadership and political will and facilitating the creation of partnerships. The forthcoming Ocean Conference, which will take place from 5 to 9 June 2017 at United Nations Headquarters in New York, will put a much-needed spotlight on all relevant issues. It will enable stakeholders to register concrete commitments. The gathering is also a platform to educate all actors about the international legal framework that governs seas and oceans, and the tools and methodologies needed for their sustainable use and conservation. It will be particularly important to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns, especially relating to fisheries, and incentivize market-based mechanisms to reduce waste and pollution.

Second, translating the political will expressed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into funding commitments for capacity-building. The United Nations is already working with Governments on deploying innovative financial instruments such as blue bonds, insurance and debt-for-adaptation swaps. In conjunction with grant­funding entities, such as the Global Environment Facility, the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund, resources are needed to improve the governance of marine environments and resources, and to promote economic diversification, job creation, food security, poverty reduction and sustainable economic development.

Third, deepening the knowledge base. Better scientific and economic data and information are needed to understand the impacts and environmental costs of human activities on the oceans, the socioeconomic impacts of ocean decline on human well-being, and the synergies and trade-offs between different policies. These will be provided by various reports and assessments, such as the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on Oceans and the Cryosphere, and the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, Including Socioeconomic Aspects. I also welcome the contribution of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data to fill critical data gaps and ensure that data is accessible and usable. It is essential that we harness the growing potential of big data to identify and address risks in real time. Data are the lifeblood of decision­making and the raw material for accountability. They can complement and strengthen traditional statistics and move the world onto a path of information equality, where all citizens, organizations and Governments have the right information, at the right time, and make good decisions that can improve people’s lives.

Fourth, sharing best practices and experiences. Many of the most innovative solutions are local, ranging from managed marine areas to collective fisheries management undertaken by cooperatives. While not all can be scaled up, some may have broader relevance. Different cultures and knowledge systems, including traditional knowledge, can provide new perspectives for innovation and for understanding key sustainability issues, such as intergenerational responsibility. It will also be crucial to educate young people about the fragility of the marine environment and its importance for sustainable development.

Sustaining the integrity of marine ecosystems will require a profound transformation in how humanity views and uses these fragile, finite and irreplaceable resources. But, if we follow the guidance of the 2030 Agenda and invest wisely in sustainable development, we can maintain and improve the quality of life that seas, oceans and marine resources provide to humankind.

In the several years that I have now been involved in shaping and implementing the 2030 Agenda, I have seen the critical role the United Nations plays in bringing people together, providing a forum for discussion and contributing authoritative data, analysis and policy options. And in the time I spent recently as Nigeria’s Minister of Environment, I saw not only the needs dose-up, but the readiness of people to contribute to problem-solving for their communities and for the world. That spirit, along with a supportive United Nations, can achieve great progress. I look forward to working with partners everywhere to set people and planet—including our precious oceans and seas—on a path to a sustainable future.

Author bio: Amina J. Mohammed is Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.