The SDG Roundtable: SDG 14 – Life Below Water

The SDG Roundtable: SDG 14 – Life Below Water

The ocean is the heart of our planet. The rainfall, drinking water, weather, temperature, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe are all influenced by these water bodies. Oceans and seas have always been an important commerce and transit route throughout history. The SDG focuses on terminating pollution that causes the degradation of coastal waterways and ocean acidification that negatively impacts ecosystems and biodiversity. Both Humans and the environment’s health are dependent on marine biodiversity consequently Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) must be well-managed and resourced. Thus a sustainable future necessitates careful management of this vital global resource.

An International Standing

According to the UN figures, Oceans span three-quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 % of the planet’s water, and account for 99 % of the planet’s living space by volume where more than three billion people rely on marine and coastal biodiversity for a living. Furthermore, the global market value of marine resources and industries is projected to be $3 trillion per year, or around 5% of global GDP. Despite the significant importance of oceans and seas, Pollution and eutrophication are wreaking havoc on coastal waterways. Major causes behind pollution and eutrophication are the Agricultural run-off, pesticides, plastics, and untreated sewage and these account for over 80% of marine and coastal pollution. It is reported that approximately 20% of the world’s coral reefs have been lost, with no hope of regeneration. However the UN is currently investing their time and effort to achieve different targets by the end of 2030. They have taken great measures to develop research capacity and increase scientific knowledge to improve ocean health.  For instance, they have  Implemented science-based management plans to effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and destructive fishing practices by 2020. In spite of all these, countries and regions show uneven results due to different levels of efforts taken towards preserving the oceans health. The Ocean Health index of 2020 shows that uninhabited or low-human-population islands tend to have the highest scores, while Germany, Greenland, the United Arab Emirates, and Norway  have quite high scores , Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia are the regions with the lowest scores. Nevertheless, our ocean’s protection must remain a primary priority in order to achieve sustainable development on a global level.

Free diving world champion Umberto Pelizzari, raised a flag to represent Goal 14, Life Below Water. Photo Credit: Enric Sala

Sri Lanka’s Position

Being an Island nation, Sri Lanka completely subscribes to the concept that “problems to life below water were in fact challenges for the country and its people” since the livelihoods of a large percentage of the population are intertwined with the sea, rivers, and interior reservoirs. UN  targets to increase the economic advantages of sustainable marine resource use to Small Island developing States and least developed nations such as Sri Lanka by 2030, particularly via sustainable fisheries, aquaculture, and tourist management. In the light of this, under several international agreements, Sri Lanka is steadfast in its commitment to protecting life below the water’s surface. The Clean Seas Campaign, the International Coral Reef Initiative, the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance, and a statement of intent with France aimed at safeguarding the oceans and promoting blue economy collaboration are among the worldwide projects in which Sri Lanka has a stake. Despite Sri Lanka’s greater attempts at conserving the coastal waters, Sri Lanka ranks 173rd in the Ocean Health index of 2020 consequently proving the need to much deeper commitments towards the sustainable use of the ocean and its resources. Thus, protecting the life below water should be the collective responsibility of the government and Sri Lankans in order to achieve a sustainable and peaceful development process.

In conclusion, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is considered a good opportunity to revitalize the ocean and begin constructing a sustainable ocean economy. The halt of activities, reduced human movement and resource demands gives the maritime habitats much needed space to breathe and recover. Therefore, it is time that the world pay attention to life below water and reduce maritime exploitation and work towards sustainable living and development.

– Rtr. Ama Dewanmini


Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. United Nations Sustainable Development. (2021). Retrieved 19 September 2021, from

Global Scores. Ocean Health Index. (2020). Retrieved 19 September 2021, from

Sustainable Development Goal | Sustainable Development Council of Sri Lanka. Sustainable Development Council of Sri Lanka. (2021). Retrieved 19 September 2021, from

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