/SDG 14: Life below Water

Conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources for a sustainable development

Icon SDG14


Gerhard J. Herndl
University of Vienna
Tel.: +43 1 4277 76431 / +43664 81 75 971


Helene Silberhumer
University of Vienna
Tel.: +43664 21 91 750

Agenda 2030

Most significant for humans, is the great benefit we can derive from the oceans - for example, they store more than 95% of the heat generated by humans and are thus an indispensable factor in the climate crisis. This shows that SDG 14 is directly related to a number of other sustainability goals (to which we in Austria are already committed): the ocean has far-reaching economic importance for local settlements as well as global consumers, hosts considerable amounts of resources for food production, acts as a carbon sink and thus has an indisputable role and the global ecology as well as economy (Eurostat 2022). Accordingly, with respect to the planetary system as a whole, action is needed here for any country committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

More than half of global gross domestic product depends on nature and the services it provides (World Economic Forum, 2020). Nature, in turn, is subject to a global interplay of diverse ecosystems that cannot be considered in isolation - their biodiversity, stability, and health are interdependent - thus the SDGs can also only be considered as a large whole, and cannot exempt one because it has diverse interactions with the others. It is obvious here that the "environmental goals" are interdependent, but the economic, societal as well as social aspect that affects the oceans must also be considered.

With regard to the role of UniNEtZ in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, it should be emphasized that various universities in Austria conduct established and internationally recognized marine research and thus contribute to international scientific cooperation in terms of achieving the SDGs.

SDG 14 Targets

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

14.2 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

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

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

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

14.6 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

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

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"

Situation in Austria

SDG 14 aims to ensure sustainable use and maintenance of the oceans. While Austria has no coastline and has so far abstained from implementing this Sustainable Development Goal, we must nevertheless be aware of the influence that we, as a landlocked country, also have on the oceans - and that they have on us.

The goals set to end pollution and acidification of the oceans as well as overfishing and to protect, preserve and strengthen coastal regions and ecosystems all also affect Austria as a contributor to the damage and beneficiary.

The oceans are a significant source of food globally. As a landlocked country, our fish consumption is mainly covered by imports from the sea, with a self-sufficiency rate of only 7% (STATISTIK AUSTRIA, Versorgungsbilanzen 2021). The existing fishery system is not sustainable, as the relevant edible fish, which Austrians also like to consume (tuna, herring, salmon), are all at the top end of the food pyramid. Creating awareness of one's own consumption and its impacts is essential for SDG14 as well as numerous other development goals.

An estimated 80% of marine litter originates inland - a considerable amount of plastic waste enters the sea via rivers and therefore also originates from landlocked countries such as Austria, which discharges large amounts of plastic waste into the sea via the Danube (Hohenblum & Maier 2019).


Hohenblum P., Maier N. 2019: Plastics in the Austrian Stretch of the Danube River: From Environmental Data to Action Plans at the Local, National, and International Level. In: Plastics in the Aquatic Environment - Part II. The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry, vol 112. Springer. p 157–162 https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/698_2019_409 (14.10.2022)

STATISTIK AUSTRIA, Versorgungsbilanzen 2021 https://www.statistik.at/fileadmin/publications/SB_1-26-Versorgungsbilanzen-tierische-Produkte2021.pdf (14.10.2022)

WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM, 2020. Nature Risk Rising: Why the Crisis Engulfing Nature Matters for Business and the Economy [online]. In collaboration with PwC. World Economic Forum. Genf. new Nature Economic Series. https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Nature_Economy_Report_2020.pdf (12.10.2022)

Eurostat. Statistics Explained. 2022: SDG 14 - Life below water https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=SDG_14_-_Life_below_water (14.10.2022)