Prioritization of the Sustainable Development Goals Drives Opportunities and Risks for a Blue Future

K. L. Nash, J. L. Blythe, C. Cvitanovic, E. A. Fulton, B. S. Halpern, E. J. Milner-Gulland, P. F. E. Addison, G. T. Pecl, R. A. Watson, J. L. Blanchard, (2020). One Earth ONE-EARTH-D-19-00108, 1-13.

Sustainable Development Goals; marine ecosystems; environmental change; human well-being; trade-offs, synergies; blue economy; blue futures


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were designed to recognize the fundamental role the biosphere plays in our sustainable future. However, decision-making bodies, from local to international levels, have assigned lowest priority towards Goal 14 (Life Below Water). Here, we analyze policy reports and indicators to explore risks associated with low attainment of Goal 14 for other targets. We show that limited progress towards Goal 14 is likely to affect long-term attainment of social and economic targets. This is particularly the case for countries highly dependent on fisheries or for those developing a blue economy, due to the reliance of the social and economic goals on a healthy ocean in these contexts. To help ensure sustainability is not compromised by environmental degradation we suggest an extension to existing indicator assessments. This approach would provide greater transparency and specificity to decision-makers as they direct actions to attain SDGs.