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UN Ocean Conference: a roadmap for sustainable use of oceans (downtoearth,)

The United Nation’s Ocean Conference is set to commence at the body’s headquarters in New York on June 5, world environment day. The meeting is a step ahead in achieving the world’s 14th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 14)—conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. It will see participation from over 5,000 delegates and continue till June 9.

The UN plans to finalise the text for its zero draft “Call for Action” by the end of the conference, along with reports of seven partnership dialogues planned during the meeting. In addition, stakeholders have been invited to give voluntary commitments to ensure that the oceans remain clean and provide a robust blue economy.

SDG 14 specifies targets to manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems; set up as system to regulate harvesting of fish and end overfishing; conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas and prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing; prevent marine pollution and increase the economic benefits to small island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources (See "Sustainable Development Goal 14"). Many of these targets have to be met by 2020, just 3 years from now. “No other SDG is higher in its ambition,” says Andrew Hudson, Head, Water and Ocean Governance Programme, UNDP, at a press meeting ahead of the conference. These targets will be assessed through the indicators set by the UN.

India's opportunity

The SDG14 is relevant to India, with its coastline of more than 7,500 kilometres. Marine fisheries wealth in India is estimated at an annual harvestable potential of 4.412 million metric tonnes and an estimated 4.0 million people depend on fisheries for their livelihoods. Marine fisheries contribute to an economic wealth valued at about Rs. 65,000 crore each year. India contributes about 6.3 per cent to the global fish production (both marine and riverine), the sector contributes to 1.1 per cent of the GDP and 5.15 per cent of the agricultural GDP.

NITI Aayog, India's policy think-tank, has been assigned the task to ensure that national goals are in concurrence with SDGs. The planning body noted the ministries and departments to work on these goals and asked the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation to set indicators for monitoring progress. These indicators, “Draft National Indicator Framework for Sustainable Development Goals”, made public on March 7, however, only have indicators for 5 of the total 10 targets.

Ministry of earth sciences is the nodal ministry in-charge of SDG14. It has to work along with the ministry of environment, forest and climate change and department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries under the ministry of agriculture. NITI Aayog is working in close collaboration with Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), a New Delhi-based autonomous think-tank under the ministry of external affairs.

“India is all set to implement SDG-14 within the specified time frame,” says SK Mohanty, professor at RIS. RIS has already organised several consultation meeting for SDG-14, involving state governments and national implementing agencies.

Sustainable Development Goal 14


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, recognising 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


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