By Paula Bernardino

Results of the 2018 UN Global Compact Progress demonstrate two SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) getting least attention from companies are Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (SDG 16) and Life Below Water (SDG 14). Similarly in KPMG’s February 2018 “How to report on the SDGs” the two least prioritized were Life Below Water (SDG 14) and Zero Hunger (SDG 2).

Numerous media stories in the last year have put forward the problem of plastic in oceans. For example, on 16 March 2019, researchers pulled nearly 90 pounds of plastic waste out of the stomach of a young cuvier beaked whale that died in the Davao Gulf of the Philippines. The whale starved to death because of the plastic in its belly.

In December 2018, CNN reported a research, published in the journal Global Change Biology, which examined more than 100 sea turtles of all seven species, across the Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean. Plastic was found in the gut of every single turtle examined in this study spanning the Atlantic, Pacific and the Mediterranean, casting fresh light on the scale of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

The oceans cover more than 70% of the surface of our planet and play a key role in supporting life on earth. They are the most diverse and important ecosystem, contributing to global and regional elemental cycling, and regulating the climate. The ocean provides natural resources including food, materials, substances and energy.

Marine Protected Areas contribute to poverty reduction by increasing fish catches and income, creating new jobs, improving health and empowering women. Increasing levels of debris in the world’s seas and oceans is having a major and growing economic impact.

The world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. How we manage this vital resource is essential for humanity as a whole, and to counterbalance the effects of climate change.

Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. However, today we are seeing 30% of the world’s fish stocks overexploited, reaching below the level at which they can produce sustainable yields.

Oceans also absorb about 30% of the carbon dioxide produced by humans, and we are seeing a 26% rise in ocean acidification since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Marine pollution, an overwhelming majority of which comes from land-based sources, is reaching alarming levels, with an average of 13,000 pieces of plastic litter to be found on every square kilometer of ocean.

The SDGs aim to sustainability manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems from pollution, as well as address the impacts of ocean acidification. Enhancing conservation and the sustainable use of ocean-based resources through international law will also help mitigate some of the challenges facing our oceans.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) provides these Data and Statistics / Facts and Figures:

  • Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97% of the Earth’s water, and represent 99% of the living space on the planet by volume
  • Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods
  • Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5% of global GDP
  • Oceans absorb about 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming
  • Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with more than 3 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein
  • Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people


About the Author: Author Paula Bernardino is the Communications lead for RSI’s Rethink Waste event that runs August through and after November 19, 2019.  She is a Montreal-based communications professional with 15 years experience in strategic corporate communications and public relations in both large corporations and not-for-profit organizations. Specializing in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability since 2014, she is a Climate Reality Project ambassador and a certified CSR Practitioner from the Centre for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE), approved by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). Drop her a note on her LinkedIn to connect.