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Failing SDG14: EU on a cliff edge for ensuring a sustainable ocean

04 March 2020
by WWF -- last modified 04 March 2020

Five years on from the adoption of the UN 2030 Agenda, a new WWF report sounds the alarm to European decision makers and the global signatories of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over failed progress on SDG14, the Goal for conservation and sustainable use of our ocean.


WWF's assessment shows that three of the four SDG14 targets due in 2020 will not have been achieved by the end of this year, with the fourth target only partly achieved.

Collectively, the ten SDG14 targets aim to secure ocean resilience through robust protection of its diverse ecosystems and to safeguard its role as a vital carbon sink — outcomes which directly support livelihoods and economies tied to our seas. The WWF report shows that for two of the six targets related to the conservation and sustainable exploitation of marine biological resources, progress is "ongoing", while lack of monitoring and accurate reporting remains a critical issue for measuring success towards achieving all ten SDG14 targets and the wider 2030 Agenda.

Dr Samantha Burgess, Head of Marine Policy at WWF European Policy Office said: "We must put an end to claiming to save nature and address climate change whilst ignoring two thirds of our planet. A healthy, productive and resilient ocean is essential to secure a sustainable blue future. The EU has a genuine opportunity to mitigate the disastrous impacts of the climate and biodiversity crises by stressing ocean action as an integral component of the European Green Deal."

WWF finds the EU Member States to be unequivocally missing the mark on provisions for biodiversity conservation, healthy marine ecosystems and sustainable and viable fisheries. The absence of effective protection of marine ecosystems with sustainable management plans, failure to align the EU's fleet capacity with fishing opportunities, the reintroduction of harmful fishing subsidies and continued sustained overfishing indicate critical gaps in compliance with existing EU legislation, including the Common Fisheries Policy, the Habitats Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Following adoption of the European Green Deal, all EU Member States must intensify their efforts towards sustainable use of marine resources, with ecosystem-based management of our seas and fisheries in line with SDG14 and the wider 2030 Agenda.

SDG14 is shown to be significantly connected with all other SDGs, with 38% of all 169 SDG targets only achievable when the SDG14 targets have been successfully accomplished, particularly SDG1 (No Poverty), SDG2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG13 (Climate Action). Despite the marine environment's importance to advance the 2030 Agenda, political will and finance remain insufficient.

Dr Anne-Cécile Dragon, Marine & Fisheries Policy Officer at the WWF European Policy Office, said: "EU policy makers and MEPs must push for real, demonstrable progress to achieve global sustainability, protect natural ecosystems and safeguard livelihoods and food security tied to resources in a changing climate. To do this, we must look beyond the individual Goals and their targets to address these issues comprehensively. This starts with bringing overfishing to an end and by effectively protecting marine ecosystems."

As the world's largest seafood market and with a marine area covering over six million square kilometres across four distinct sea regions, WWF calls on the EU to lead by example and stand by its commitments to all life above and below water. A transformation of EU and international ocean governance is urgently required. In the EU, this starts with the development of a coherent, overarching strategy to ensure that all the Sustainable Development Goals are achieved.

The European Policy Office helps shape EU policies that impact on the European and global environment.