SDG 14 is actually my favourite one. You can probably tell from the branding images of the blog. I even have a related degree in marine environment. But paradoxically, I never practiced in the field, and don’t have very many articles classified under SDG 14 either. That’s probably because marine destinations that aren’t still somewhat sustainable, can’t host tourism. Still, every marine destination I visit gives me stories about marine sustainability issues in different places. And travel also brings me to places that remind me what it looks like to have a healthy relationship with the marine environment.

Sustainability issues under this SDG are the accumulated consequences of human activities at a mass scale, generally to provide for our needs. These issues have been among the most neglected. This is partly because human beings are terrestrial creatures, and most of our civilisations are continental rather than archipelagic. To most people, the ocean is ‘some other place’ that we don’t see and think about.

It is also because for the longest time, the ocean seemed to us vast and limitless, and the resources within it seemed inexhaustible. Even the biodiversity COP focused more on land ecosystems until very recently. And indeed, the ocean is vast. It covers most of the planet’s surface. It feeds millions of people. The ocean also regulates climate and weather, and as a carbon sink, it has buffered 90% of the excess heat of global warming since the Industrial Age.

But industrialisation of human activities managed to hit even the ocean’s limits. Sewage and industrial effluent dumped into the ocean have damaged coastal ecosystems. Industrial trawling turned productive seabed into desert. Industrial fishing has caused stocks of many kinds of seafood to crash. Fishing quotas are a frequent dispute between countries, as is illegal fishing, especially in the waters of countries in conflict and unable to protect their marine territory. Ocean plastic emerged as a whole issue of its own within one generation of mass produced single-use plastic packaging and plastic nets.

So ocean ecosystems face a lot of pressures due to sustainability issues in other SDGs. But the point of efforts under this SDG is actually simple. The SDG targets basically boil down to making fishing sustainable, and restoring the health of marine ecosystems so that the ocean can continue to provide for the millions of people who depend on it for a long time to come.