EU’s Progress Towards UN Sustainable Development Goals: A Mixed Bag for “Life Below Water”

Sea breams, Sicily, Italy ©damedias/stock.adobe.com

The European Commission takes stock of its efforts in implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a particular focus on SDG 14, “Life Below Water,” which pertains to the preservation and sustainable use of marine resources. In a voluntary review presented at the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the EU showcases achievements and acknowledges the challenges that lie ahead.

With the halfway mark of the 2030 Agenda approaching, the assessment reveals a landscape of accomplishments and opportunities for the EU. While strides have been made, much work remains to be done to ensure the health and vitality of our oceans.

Key highlights from the EU’s progress report on SDG 14 include:

  1. Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) Success: The EU has made significant strides under the CFP, resulting in more sustainable harvesting of fish stocks. The graph illustrates the remarkable transition from just 5 sustainably harvested stocks in 2009 to an impressive 60 stocks today. Nevertheless, efforts must persist to attain sustainability levels across all fisheries.
  2. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): The establishment of Marine Protected Areas signifies commendable progress. However, more dedicated work is needed, especially for strictly protected MPAs. Currently, the EU stands at below 1% protection compared to a 10% target, while 12% of marine areas are designated as protected, still short of the 30% aspiration.
  3. Ecosystem Stressors and Pollution: Despite strides, challenges persist. Pollution and acidification continue to stress marine ecosystems, impeding the attainment of good environmental status by 2020 under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).
  4. Global Leadership in Ocean Protection: The EU demonstrates its commitment to global ocean protection through multiple avenues. A pledge to double funding for biodiversity during the 2021-2027 period underscores its dedication. The EU’s role in facilitating the WTO agreement against harmful fisheries subsidies showcases its multilateral leadership. Additionally, the coalition championed by the EU successfully secured the Treaty of the High Seas, safeguarding 30% of the high seas.

Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries, Virginius Sinkevičius, expressed, “The EU’s pursuit of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals is interconnected with our vision for a healthy planet and thriving communities. A robust ocean ecosystem is pivotal to our success.”

The EU Green Deal, fortified by strategic initiatives, is pivotal in charting the path towards Agenda 2030 objectives. The EU Biodiversity Strategy is set to shield 30% of land and sea areas by 2030. The proposed Nature Restoration Law aims to rejuvenate depleted ecosystems through binding targets. The Marine Action Plan takes aim at sustainable fisheries while minimizing ecological impacts.

For an in-depth exploration of the EU’s progress and strategies toward realizing SDG 14, readers are invited to delve into the full report: Read More. As the EU navigates the complex realm of ocean conservation, the journey toward a sustainable and vibrant “Life Below Water” continues to evolve.