31.01.2019 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

Measuring progress on SDG 14 indicators

A lot has happened during the past six months at UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) when it comes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 14. IOC-UNESCO is the custodian agency for two SDG 14 targets and related indicators: ocean acidification (Target 14.3) and marine scientific research (Target 14.a). IOC also provides technical support and advice to UN Environment, responsible for the development of the indicator methodologies for Target 14.1 and 14.2. The upcoming UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), will also provide Member States with the enabling framework to achieve the SDG 14 targets by fostering scientific research and technological innovation toward a healthier, more sustainable ocean.


SDG 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, SDG 14.1.1 Index of coastal eutrophication and floating plastic debris density

IOC-UNESCO supports the development of the indicators for SDG 14.1, for which UN Environment is the custodian agency. IOC-UNESCO, UN Environment and the Regional Seas Conventions work in close collaboration. A task force, which includes experts from IOC-UNESCO, the International Geosphere Biosphere Program (IGBP), and GESAMP, the UN Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection, supported by the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) Blue Planet, was established to provide the technical expertise during the course of the indicator methodology development. The task force held an Experts Workshop on Marine Pollution Indicators SDG Goal Target 14.1.1 at IOC-UNESCO, Paris, 12-13 September 2018, to work on the science of marine pollution indicators, data capture and dissemination and to advance the global methodology on eutrophication and plastic debris assessment. More information on the SDG14.1.1 indicator development process/methodology can be found here. A review of existing indicators and methodologies currently used highlights three main approaches for monitoring coastal eutrophication and marine litter. Based on this review four main types of indicators for coastal eutrophication exist:

  1. Indicators for the cause of eutrophication (nutrient input and concentrations),
  2. Indicators for the direct effects of eutrophication (e.g. Chlorophyll a concentrations, biomass growth, water clarity/turbidity),
  3. Indicators for the indirect effects of eutrophication (e.g. dissolved oxygen levels),
  4. Modelled indicators of the potential for coastal eutrophication (the Index of Coastal Eutrophication Potential (ICEP), based on analyzing nutrient load ratios and expected influence on eutrophication due to land based activities).

There are also four main types of indicators for marine litter:

  1. Plastic debris washed/deposited on beaches or shorelines (beach litter),
  2. Plastic debris in the water column,
  3. Plastic debris on the seafloor/seabed,
  4. Plastic ingested by biota (e.g. sea birds).

The core focus of IOC-UNESCO is to contribute to the development of the Index of Coastal Eutrophication (ICEP). Currently, IOC UNESCO together with UN Environment is soliciting for funding to finalize the Silica component of the model and for testing it.

For further information, please contact: Henrik Enevoldsen h.enevoldsen(at)unesco.org

SDG 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, SDG 14.2.1 Proportion of national exclusive economic zones managed using ecosystem-based approaches

UN Environment is the custodian agency of this indicator and works in close collaboration with the Regional Seas Conventions and the IOC-UNESCO.

The development of the methodology for the SDG 14.2 Indicator started with a review of existing indicators and methodologies currently used by Regional Seas Programmes and other key intergovernmental, international and regional bodies that are a number of existing indicators for integrated management and planning strategies for socio-ecological systems. It also includes indicators based on the implementation status of marine-area based, integrated planning and management approaches, such as marine spatial planning or integrated coastal zone management.

In terms of data and geospatial information, information to determine the percentage of total exclusive economic zones under any type of ecosystem-based management approaches has been collected, although it would require additional resources to ensure the comparison amongst the number of countries with marine, maritime or integrated coastal zone management plan in place.

In line with these methodological developments, IOC-UNESCO and the European Commission adopted on 24 March 2017 a "Joint Roadmap to accelerate Maritime/Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) processes worldwide". It will contribute to sketching out a vision and a role for MSP in implementing Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and in particular the dedicated goal SDG 14, in a comprehensive, consistent and holistic way, both within the European Union and beyond at the international level with the objective to triple the area of territorial waters benefiting from marine spatial planning by 2030.

The Joint Roadmap was presented as a voluntary commitment by IOC-UNESCO and European Commission (#OceanAction15346) at the UN Ocean Conference.

For further information, please contact: Alejandro Iglesias Campos a.iglesias-campos(at)unesco.org; Julian Barbière j.barbiere(at)unesco.org

SDG 14.3 Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels, SDG Indicator 14.3.1 Average marine acidity (pH) measured at agreed suite of representative sampling stations

IOC-UNESCO is the custodian agency for the SDG 14.3.1 indicator. Thanks to the cooperation and support received by the Commission in the past years from its International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange Programme (IODE), international ocean acidification experts (including data managers) and the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON) the respective indicator methodology was developed and is now freely available. The SDG Indicator 14.3.1 Methodology provides the necessary guidance to researchers and member states on how to conduct ocean acidification observation, using different types of technology and measuring different variables and provides support on how to and what kind of data sets to submit to IOC-UNESCO for annual reporting purposes. The Methodology was presented to and welcomed by the IOC Executive Council during its 51st Session in Paris in July (Decision EC-LI/4.4). Following this, a pilot study for the collection of ocean acidification data from National Oceanographic Data Centres (NODCs) towards the Indicator was launched in collaboration with IODE. Its results, as well as the management and storage of ocean acidification data and metadata, were among the topics discussed at the expert working group meeting at IOC in October 2018, during which the need for a dedicated SDG Indicator 14.3.1 data portal was reiterated and confirmed.

In November 2018, the SDG Indicator 14.3.1 Methodology was upgraded from Tier III (‘No internationally established methodology or standards are yet available for the indicator, but methodology/standards are being (or will be) developed or tested’) to Tier II by the United Nations’ Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), the body charged with developing the indicator framework to measure progress on the implementation of the SDGs. The upgrade formally recognizes the “conceptual clarity” and international standards of the methodology and data-gathering approach for SDG indicator 14.3.1. A request to all Member States for data collected according to the SDG Indicator 14.3.1 Methodology will begin in June 2019. In preparation, the SDG Indicator 14.3.1 Methodology and the associated data and metadata files for data collection are being disseminated.

The SDG Indicator 14.3.1 Methodology is now being introduced to researchers and data managers. Workshops and meetings, such as the 5th IOC-WESTPAC Workshop on Research and Monitoring of the Ecological Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reef Ecosystems( November 2018, Xiamen, China) and the Latin American and Caribbean Regional Symposium and Advanced Training on Ocean Acidification Monitoring (January 2019, Santa Marta, Colombia) are the first of many upcoming trainings, where participants will learn how to apply the methodology.

For further information, please contact: Katherina Schoo k.schoo(at)unesco.org; Kirsten Isensee k.isensee(at)unesco.org

SDG 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, SDG Indicator 14.a.1 (Tier II) - Proportion of total research budget allocated to research in the field of marine technology

The preparations of the second edition of The Global Ocean Science Report (GOSR), to be published in June 2020, started in early 2018. Last July, the IOC Executive Council in its decision IOC/EC-LI/4.3 reaffirmed the importance of GOSR as the main mechanism to measure progress towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, Target 14.a (SDG indicator 14.a.1) and recognized that investments in ocean science are key to developing sustainable ocean economies.

The GOSR-II will further provide the baseline information to track progress made to build capacities all over the world to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and create improved conditions for sustainable development of the ocean, seas and coasts over the period of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

The IOC Secretariat, in close cooperation with the Editorial Board, developed a new GOSR-II questionnaire, to which Member States are invited to report on the current status report of ocean science (CL2729; CL2744). New topics addressed in the questionnaire include ocean science capacity building and national infrastructures/activities related to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in particular to SDG 14. Mindful of the difficulty of the task for Member States and of the need to gather the broadest possible representation of countries, the deadline to contribute information through the online questionnaire has been extended to 15 February 2019.

In May 2019 the Editorial Board will reconvene in Zanzibar, Tanzania, hosted by WIOMSA and supported by the Government of Flanders.

For further information, please contact:

Kirsten Isensee k.isensee(at)unesco.org

Salvatore Arico s.arico(at)unesco.org

<- Back to: All news
Back to top