United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Targets and Indicators



By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution


Index of coastal eutrophication and floating plastic debris density



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


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



Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels


Average marine acidity (pH) measured at agreed suite of representative sampling stations



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


Proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels



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


Coverage of protected areas in relation to marine areas



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


Progress by countries in the degree of implementation of international instruments aiming to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing



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


Sustainable fisheries as a percentage of GDP in small island developing States, least developed countries and all countries



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


Proportion of total research budget allocated to research in the field of marine technology



Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets


Progress by countries in the degree of application of a legal/regulatory/policy/institutional framework which recognizes and protects access rights for small-scale fisheries



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


Number of countries making progress in ratifying, accepting and implementing through legal, policy and institutional frameworks, ocean-related instruments that implement international law, as reflected in the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea, for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and their resources

Progress and Info

Oceans and fisheries continued to support the global population’s economic, social and environmental needs while suffering unsustainable depletion, environmental deterioration and carbon dioxide saturation and acidification. Current efforts to protect key marine environments and small-scale fishers and invest in ocean science are not yet meeting the urgent need to protect this vast, fragile resource.

The ocean absorbs around 23 per cent of the annual emissions of anthropogenic carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, helping to alleviate the impacts of climate change on the planet, however, resulting in a decreasing pH and acidification of the ocean. A new ocean acidification data portal shows an increase in variability in pH and the acidity of the oceans by 10 to 30 per cent in the period 2015–2019. 

The sustainability of global fishery resources continues to decline, though at a reduced rate, with the proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels at 65.8 per cent in 2017, down from 90 per cent in 1974 and 0.8 percentage point lower than 2015 levels. 

As at December 2019, more than 24 million km2, or 17 per cent, of waters under national jurisdiction (up to 200 nautical miles from shore) were covered by protected areas, more than doubling in extent since 2010. Much of the coverage is concentrated in Oceania and Latin America and the Caribbean.

As at February 2020, the number of parties to the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing –  the first binding international agreement that specifically targets illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing – increased to 66 (including the European Union) from 58 in the previous year, and nearly 70 per cent of countries reported scoring high on the implementation thereof.

The contribution of sustainable marine capture fisheries remained stable at the global level, with regional variation, representing the largest contribution to the GDP in Pacific small island developing States and least developed countries, averaging 1.55 and 1.15 per cent, respectively, in 2011 to 2017. 

Source: Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, Report of the Secretary-General, https://undocs.org/en/E/2020/57