Life on the seabed with tropical fish and corals
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development


The world’s oceans —their temperature, chemistry, currents and life— drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. Rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, a significant proportion of foodstuffs, and even the oxygen in the air, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Throughout history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation. Sustainable management of this essential global resource is a key feature of future well-being.

Key messages from the region on the issues addressed by SDG 14 and its targets

      • Throughout history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation. Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future.

      • The quality of nearshore marine waters is affected by the dumping of solid and liquid waste by ships, abandoned fishing nets and ballast water discharges, river effluents containing runoff from agricultural chemicals, inadequate wastewater treatment, deforestation and coastal development.

      • In certain areas, the change in flows of phosphorus, nitrogen and water have created areas that are hypoxic —meaning low in oxygen— called "dead zones". There are between 20 and 30 of these zones in Latin America and the Caribbean, depending on the source consulted. Analysis of the clean water indicator, which measures ocean pollution levels, shows that water quality problems are extensive, but more serious in some equatorial areas, particularly in parts of Asia, Africa and Central America.
      • Furthermore, the transfer of invasive aquatic species through the exchange of ballast water is one of the four greatest threats shipping poses to the world’s oceans and can cause severe environmental, economic and public-health impacts. However, countries' capacity to identify, control and eliminate invasive alien species is still limited.

      • The Caribbean Sea is second only to the Mediterranean Sea in terms of plastic pollution.

    Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean

    Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean

    The analysis of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) presented here is the outcome of the discussions held within the framework of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and Caribbean on Sustainable Development, convened under the auspices of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Challenges and opportunities for the implementation, follow-up and review of SDG 14 and its targets

    • Challenges

      • International action is essential to restore the health and productivity of oceans, seas and coasts. There is a need to strengthen cooperation, research, joint monitoring and development of early warnings for increasingly frequent phenomena such as algal blooms, the increase in mass mortality of marine organisms, changes in the migration routes or periods of migratory species, the rise in storm surges or the presence of invasive alien species.

      • Four of the 10 targets of SDG 14 had to be met by 2020 (14.2, 14.4, 14.5 and 14.6) and one by 2025 (14.1). Three of the four targets for 2020 will not be met and countries must commit to making greater efforts to achieve them, especially with regard to overfishing and to illegal and unreported fishing and the incentives to carry out these activities.

      • Although target 14.5 has been achieved in Latin America and the Caribbean at the regional level, most countries are far from protecting 10% of their exclusive economic zones (EEZ). The progress made in protecting marine surface area has been possible because some countries have protected a large percentage of their EEZ. However, they have generally done so in areas far from the coast (offshore). The coasts, which are more vulnerable and exposed to a greater number of threats, tend to include few protected marine areas.

      • Ocean pollution and acidification has an adverse impact on ecosystem functioning and the biodiversity of coastal waters, and also on small-scale fishing.

      • Infrastructure development in coastal areas (ports and tourism and production facilities) has degraded or destroyed ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrasses that act as natural barriers. These ecosystems play an essential role in filtering out harmful pollutants, absorbing nutrients from runoff and trapping sediments to increase the clarity and quality of marine waters, capturing large quantities of carbon (mangroves have a greater capacity to do so than tropical forests) and protecting coasts, among other things. They also play a key role in the life cycle development of economically crucial species and foster ecotourism.

      • Although there are instruments that cover the disposal of plastic waste generated on-board ships, there are no known protocols or standard operating procedures on the day-to-day management of litter. Further research is needed to enable analyses of the costs and impact of marine litter from tourism.

      • Despite their fundamental contribution to nutrition, food security and local livelihoods, many small-scale fishing communities remain marginalized.


      • Oceans (including islands, seas and coasts) and marine ecosystems present excellent opportunities to comprehensively and synergistically address several targets of the 2030 Agenda, especially nature-based solutions that can help to reduce the risks of storm surges and of hurricanes making landfall, and that can contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation. The Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 25), held in 2019 in Madrid, was dubbed "Blue COP" given its focus on this theme.

      • Oceans are crucial to the achievement of social targets such as gender equality, increasing decent work, decreasing environmental conflict, reducing poverty and eliminating hunger.

      • Aquaculture, which is growing considerably in the region and the world, could increase the production of algae and filter-feeders that do not require food inputs and that, on the contrary, generate additional benefits by filtering water and, in the case of algae, by capturing carbon and pollutants.

      • More and more companies are joining the fight against excess plastic in the oceans, through initiatives ranging from the development of new biodegradable materials to replace plastic, to the search for enzymes and organisms that can break it down. Other examples are sports shoes and T-shirts made from abandoned fishing nets, biodegradable containers and eco-friendly packaging.

Lessons learned and good practices with respect to SDG 14 and its targets

      • The plastic bag bans in a growing number of countries —including Argentina, Chile and Mexico— are a step in the right direction towards the achievement of SDG 14.
      • The Regional Seas Programme involves three conventions in the region: the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (managed by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)), the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Area of the South-East Pacific, and the Convention for Cooperation in the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Marine and Coastal Areas of the Northeast Pacific.

Recommendations from Latin America and the Caribbean to achieve SDG 14 and its targets

      • To achieve SDG 14 by 2030, governments should identify the areas of greatest risk and the most comprehensive and cost-effective adaptation strategies.

      • Protected marine areas should be managed effectively and supported by sufficient resources and regulations that reduce overfishing, pollution and ocean acidification.
      • Mangroves and coral reefs also provide important protection services from extreme weather events and climate change. Like terrestrial ecosystems, marine ecosystems also require protection by balancing the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity and habitats.

      • Scientific information and better data should be encouraged, along with the development of best practices. The development and implementation of area-based management tools should be combined with other appropriate conservation measures, to avoid negative impacts in other areas.