Sustainable Development Goals

Charting progress towards SDG 14: Life Below Water

Visualising global and regional trends

Adopted in 2015 by all United Nations (UN) members, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a global agenda for making the world a better place by 2030. They are described by the UN as a ‘shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet‘, and goals are to be achieved by all countries, in global partnership, by 2030.

This page provides a selection of visualisations on global and regional trends for Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

The visualisations use the latest official data from the United Nations SDG Global Database.

Target 14.1

By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution


14.1.1(a) Index of coastal eutrophication; and (b) plastic debris density

Coastal eutrophication occurs when coastal waters become enriched with nutrients, causing excessive growth of plants, algae and phytoplankton. Eutrophication is primarily a result of land-based nutrient flows from agricultural processes (fertilizer runoff, livestock waste) and domestic wastewater discharge (sewage).

Globally, coastal eutrophication is measured through analysis of chlorophyll-a concentrations. Coastal waters with excessive nutrient enrichment may have high concentrations of chlorophyll-a and excess amounts of algae. The indicator looks at the degree of deviation of cholorophyll-a in coastal waters compared to a 2000-2004 baseline.

Satellite data shows that overall, coastal eutrophication has been on an increasing trend since 2016. Compared to the 2000-2004 baseline, North America and Europe were the regions most impacted by chlorophyll-a deviations, while Oceania and East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa were impacted the lowest.

Plastics make up the vast majority (85%) of marine litter, and the UN estimates that around 11 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean yearly. The amount is expected to triple by 2040 unless urgent action is taken. The plastic litter density measures the amount of beach litter per square kilometre, and is derived from citizen-generated data. The chart below shows the developments since 2015. Note, however, that the numbers for 2020 are likely to be impacted by the pandemic as the data is based on citizen reporting.

Target 14.2

By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans


14.2.1Number of countries using ecosystem-based approaches to managing marine areas

No data is available to assess progress at the global or regional level.

Target 14.3

Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels


14.3.1Average marine acidity (pH) measured at agreed suite of representative sampling stations

While the number of observation stations of ocean acidification, large reporting gaps still exists. However, according to the UN, observation sites in the open ocean show a continuous decline in pH levels over the past 20 to 30 years. Increased acidification is a result of the world's oceans absorbing carbon dioxide emissions, and represent a threat to the global marine ecosystem. Acidification is expected to increase over the coming decades.

Target 14.4

By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics


14.4.1Proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels

The global share of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels stood at 64.6% worldwide in 2019, a decline from 72.8% in 2000 and 66.7% in 2015. The share of sustainable fish stocks were lowest in the Southeast Pacific (33.7%) and the Mediterranean and the Black Sea (36.6%), while the highest levels were found in Eastern Central Pacific, Southwest Pacific, Northeast Pacific and Western Central Pacific (ranging from 79 to 87%). According to the UN, improved regulations and monitoring have been key to improving the sustainability of fish stocks, yet such measures suffer from slow adoption, especially in developing countries.

Target 14.5

By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information


14.5.1Coverage of protected areas in relation to marine areas

In 2021 just over 8% of total marine areas worldwide were protected. However, the UN estimates that this will rise closer to the 10% target based on recent new designations. While the target is close to being achieved, it is important to note that there are still important areas that are not protected.

Such areas, called key biodiversity areas (KBA), are deemed to contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity. From 2000 to 2021 the share of marine KBAs that were covered by protected areas increased from 26% to 45%. However, in recent years the increase has slowed.

Target 14.6

By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation


14.6.1Degree of implementation of international instruments aiming to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

As of 2022, countries worldwide scored an average of 4 out of 5 in their level of implementation of international instruments to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU). Data shows that progress is being made globally, with the global average increasing from 3 out of 5 in 2018. As a further mark of progress, in June 2022 members of the WTO adopted the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies to end prohibited fisheries subsidies.

Target 14.7

By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism


14.7.1Sustainable fisheries as a proportion of GDP in small island developing States, least developed countries and all countries

Sustainable fisheries accounted for a total of 0.1% of world GDP in 2019, a level which was unchanged from 2011 (earliest available data). In least developed countries and small island states, which to a larger degree depend on fishing, the share has declined compared to the level in 2011. The decline, according to the UN, reflects increasing pressures on wild stocks, impacting in particular Eastern and South-Eastern Asia.

Target 14.a

Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries


14.a.1Proportion of total research budget allocated to research in the field of marine technology

There is no set target level for this indicator, and data is not available for all countries. The latest UN data for the world average share shows a decline from 1.6% in 2013 to 1.0% in 2017. However, this should be interpreted with caution as the changes in the share allocated to marine technology in terms of total research allocations could depend on many factors.

Target 14.b

Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets


14.b.1Degree of application of a legal/regulatory/policy/institutional framework which recognises and protects access rights for small‐scale fisheries

In 2022 the world average implementation of frameworks that recognises and protects access rights of small-scale fisheries reached a score of 5 out of 5, up from 3 out of 5 in 2018. The increase is due to increased global efforts to support small-scale fisheries, according to the UN. Regional data, however, shows that implementation is uneven with Central and Southern Asia as well as Australia and New Zealand scoring 3 out of 5.

Target 14.c

Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of "The future we want"


14.c.1Number of countries making progress in ratifying, accepting and implementing through legal, policy and institutional frameworks, ocean-related instruments that implement international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and their resources

Available data is insufficient for analysis of global or regional trends.

About the data

The data presented on global and regional trends are from the UN SDG Global Database.


  • First release November 2022

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