Part of a series on the Sustainable Development Goals. Find out more.
  • By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
  • 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
  • Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
  • Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, 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

K o ngā pae tawhiti whāia kia tata, ko ngā pae tata, whakamaua kia tina ‐ the potential for tomorrow depends on what we do today.

This Māori saying reflects great truth for me ‐ a Pakeha Kiwi living in New Zealand, two small islands in the middle of a great ocean. The ocean is a part of who I am.

Each morning as I drive into my workplace the sea is ever in my view and always reminds me of the chorus to a song that never fails to bring a smile to my face:

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

Many New Zealanders like me value our coastal waters and oceans. Māori people have a special affinity with the oceans and this is recognised in the Treaty of Waitangi. Many of the country’s industries depend on biological resources and healthy ecosystems, including its $1.2 billion a year commercial fishing industry.

It doesn’t matter whether you live near the sea or not, nor whether or not you enjoy what the seas produce; we all need healthy oceans.

“Oceans are the point at which planet, people, and prosperity come together. And that is what sustainable development is about. It is about all of us as shareholders of Earth,  incorporated, acknowledging and acting on our responsibility to the planet, to the people, and to its bloodstream, the oceans.”1

A total of 3.1 billion of the world’s population live within 100 kilometres of the ocean or sea. Whether your country is landlocked or has a coastline we are all connected to the seas and oceans by lakes, streams and rivers.

We celebrate some great changes made through ‘green’ shipping, sustainable fishing, employment and empowerment (particularly of women in isolated and small communities who have been able to make use of their work in marine and aquaculture to strengthen their countries’ economic status).

We are also very aware that those who make their homes in coastal areas are experiencing climate change in a variety of extremes. It is estimated that by 2050, 50 to 200 million people around the world will be displaced due to the effects of climate change on our great oceans.

According to the US Committee on Biological Diversity in Marine Systems, the most serious threats to marine biodiversity are: fishing operations; chemical pollution and eutrophication; alteration of physical habitat invasions of exotic species; and global climate change.

In New Zealand in particular many of our activities impact on our marine biodiversity, including:

  • fishing ‐ recreational and commercial land use ‐ through sediments and pollution
  • exotic pests ‐ introduced by shipping in ballast water and fouled hulls
  • human‐induced climate change ‐ affects ocean temperature and levels

We should be concerned in how the ocean is looked after. The sea is part of our lives both for recreation and a source of food and income.

Let us each bring joy back to the fishes in the deep blue sea and enjoy the majesty and beauty of the seas around us that God has entrusted to our care.


1 Elizabeth Thompson, Co‐Executive Coordinator for the Rio+20 Conference, at Oceans Day at Rio+20, 16 June 2012


What does the Bible teach?
  • In Genesis 1 we read: ‘So God made a canopy that separated the water beneath the canopy from the water above it. ... God called the canopy “sky.” The twilight and the dawn were the second day. Then God said, “Let the water beneath the sky come together into one area, and let dry ground appear!” ... God called the dry ground “land,” and he called the water that had come together “oceans.” And God saw how good it was’.
  • Psalm 33 says: 'By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.' 
What should we pray for?
  • For the amazing diversity of the world God created. From dry, vast expanses of desert to beautiful rainforests and rivers and all that comes in between, we have so much to be awe‐struck by.
  • For mindfulness of our impact on the oceans and wildlife at all times. May we strive to choose the better, more sustainable option even if it requires more effort or expense.
  • Give those with responsibility – leaders, businesses, communities – the foresight to care for the environment with actions and plans that look far into the future. May they look past the short‐term, crowd‐pleasing measures and do what is best for the planet.
What can we do?
  • Choose safe, sustainable seafood choices. When shopping or eating out, help reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing seafood that is both healthy and sustainable.
  • Reduce your use of plastic products. Many plastic items end up as ocean debris and contribute to habitat destruction entangling and killing vast quantities of marine life every year. Carry a reusable water bottle, store food in non‐disposable containers, and use your own reusable bags when shopping. Recycle when possible.
  • Take care of your beaches. Whether you enjoy swimming, surfing, diving or relaxing on the beach, always clean up after yourself. Explore and value the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks and coral.
  • Don't purchase items that exploit marine life. Certain products harm our fragile coral reefs and marine life. Avoid buying items such as coral jewellery, tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles), and shark products.
  • Support organizations working to protect the ocean. Many organizations are engaged in protecting our ocean habitats and marine wildlife. Consider finding an organisation that you can invest in and support or volunteer your time.
Tags: SDG14: Life Below Water