SIM Social Impact Movement

Why Life Below Water Matters For Sustainable Development 

Author: Chloe Aldrich

The fourteenth sustainable development goal (SDG), Life Below Water, seeks to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.” Centered around the sustainability of our planet’s bodies of water, this SDG is crucial for the survival of our entire planet. Thus, such resources must be preserved and protected to achieve a more harmonious future between humanity and our natural environment. Here is some information about why Life Below Water matters for sustainable development: 

The Importance Of Oceans

According to the United Nations, oceans are essential to life on this planet. Housing nearly a million species, they are the largest ecosystem in the world and provide many opportunities for scientific discovery. They support our environmental needs, such as regulating the global climate system. They also help the economy and human health to thrive. For example, marine fisheries provide 57 million jobs worldwide and are the primary source of protein to over 50% of the population in least-developed countries. According to UNESCO, can also be an effective force against COVD-19: bacteria found deep in the ocean have been used to carry out rapid testing to detect the virus. Furthermore, the diversity of species in the ocean offers huge promise for pharmaceuticals.

So What’s The Problem? 

Humanity has exploited our oceans for decades, leading to an unfathomable level of degradation. Unfortunately, the need to safeguard these bodies of water is not being properly met by current efforts to protect marine environments and small-scale fisheries as well as to invest in ocean science. The ocean absorbs approximately 23% of annual CO2 emissions resulting from human activity, as well as over 90% of the excess heat in the climate system. Thus, ocean heat is at an all-time high, causing widespread marine heatwaves, threatening its ecosystems, and killing coral reefs worldwide. Additionally, rising numbers of debris in oceans are having a huge environmental and economic impact. An estimated 5 to 12 million metric tonnes of plastic enter the ocean annually, costing approximately $13 billion per year – including cleanup costs and financial losses in industries such as fisheries. Around 89% of plastic litter found on the ocean floor are single-use plastics. About 80% of all tourism occurs in coastal areas, and this industry has grown an estimate of $134 billion annually. If this trend continues, it can become a huge threat to the natural resources which it is dependent on, as well as to local culture and industry.

How We Can Help

To achieve sustainable oceans, increased international cooperation is vital. This can be accomplished by conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainability in the fishing industry through the pursuit of effective and equitably managed systems of government-protected areas. Locally, we should make ocean-friendly choices throughout our everyday lives, such as selecting certified products, eliminating plastic usage whenever possible, and organizing beach cleanups. Most importantly, we must spread awareness about the importance of protecting marine life. Additionally, though the COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge source of tragedy, it has resulted in a huge decrease in human activity that allows for oceans to recuperate. It also provides an opportunity for a new path to sustainable recovery that will be greatly beneficial to the environment in the years to come. 

The Benefits Of Investing In Life Below Water 

Our oceans and seas are at the core of our planet’s ability to thrive. Thus, we must take all measures necessary to protect this vast, fragile resource in need. By doing so, we can work towards a world that is free of harmful garbage and pollutants, allowing for more communities and natural habitats to thrive.