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Establishing a Sustainable Development Goal for Oceans and Coasts to Face the Challenges of our Future Ocean

Martin Visbeck, Ulrike Kronfeld-Goharani, Barbara Neumann, Wilfried Rickels, Jörn Schmidt and Erik van Doorn • 24-05-2013
Kiel Institute
Establishing a Sustainable Development Goal for Oceans and Coasts to Face the Challenges of our Future Ocean

Originally published by the Kiel Institute in June 2013.

There is limited but quickly growing awareness of the life-supporting role of the oceans and the associated need for concentrating on ocean affairs in the context of overall economic and human development.  International cooperation and negotiations are required to protect the marine environment and use marine resources in a way that the needs of future generations will be met. To support this process we propose the creation of a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for oceans and coasts.

Oceans regulate our climate, provide us with natural resources such as food, materials, substances, and energy and are essential for international trade, recreational, and cultural activities. Free access to and availability of ocean resources and services, together with human development, have put strong pressures on marine ecosystems, ranging from overfishing and reckless resource extraction to various channels of careless pollution. International cooperation and negotiations are required to protect the marine environment and use marine resources in a way that the needs of future generations will be met. For that purpose, developing and agreeing on a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Oceans and Coasts could be an essential element for sustainable ocean management. The SDGs will build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and replace them by 2015. Even though ensuring environmental sustainability is one of the eight MDG goals, the ocean is not explicitly included. Furthermore, the creation of a comprehensive underlying set of oceanic sustainability indicators would help assessing the current status of marine systems, diagnose on-going trends, and provide information for forward-locking and sustainable ocean governance.

This paper first contrasts the services provided by the ocean for humankind with their implications for ocean health resulting from the over-utilization of these services, and then turn to the coastal zones as the interface between humankind and the oceans and between land and sea (Section 2). Section 3 proposes an SDG for oceans and coasts, and discusses the challenge of developing an indicator set to measure progress and guide future development options. Due to various uncertainties in the human-ocean system, safe minimum standards should be established in order to guide implementation. Section 4 discusses the potential for developing targets for sustainable development of the oceans, building on the concept of MSP and articulating further needs for the international legal framework with respect to the high seas. 

Download the PDF of the full report attached below.

Tags: oceans,sustainability indicators,water