Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life below water

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14Footnote 1 aims to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. It recognizes that the health of oceans and seas directly affects:

  • rainwater
  • drinking water
  • weather
  • climate
  • coastlines
  • much of our food
  • the oxygen in our air

SDG 14 aims for results such as:

  • significantly reduced marine pollution
  • more sustainable management, protection and conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems
  • an end to overfishing and ghost gear

Canadian ambition under Life below water

Canada’s ambition for his goal is to protect and conserve marine areas and sustainably manages ocean fish stocks. With the world’s longest coastline, SDG 14 is highly relevant to Canada. Changing ocean conditions are already directly affecting communities along our Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic coasts, including Indigenous communities. These include, rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, ocean acidification, and thinning sea ice. The Government of Canada has placed a high priority on conserving and protecting the oceans and ensuring sustainable fisheries.

The national targets are:

  • to conserve 25% of Canada’s oceans by 2025, and 30% by 2030
  • for key fishFootnote 2 and invertebrate stocks to be managed and harvested at levels considered to be sustainable by 2023, from a baseline of 96% in 2016

Canadian Indicator Framework

In collaboration with federal departments and agencies, Statistics Canada has developed the Canadian Indicator Framework (CIF) for the Sustainable Development Goals. The CIF includes 76 indicators specific to Canada, which measure progress using a set of nationally relevant, objective and comprehensive indicators. CIF indicators for SDG 14 are:

  • Proportion of marine and coastal areas conserved
  • Proportion of fish stocks that are sustainably harvested

What are we doing to improve life below water in Canada

Canada continues to make progress on marine conservation. Budget 2021 included $976.8 million towards the goal of conserving 25 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030. These targets will be achieved through the establishment of marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, including marine refuges. This builds on Canada’s success in exceeding its commitment to conserve 10 per cent of its marine and coastal areas by 2020. As of the end of 2020, 13.8 per cent of Canada’s coastal and marine areas were recognized as conserved through a network of marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.

The federal government contributes to responsible, science-based fisheries management under the Sustainable Fisheries Framework. The framework promotes and ensures precautionary and ecosystem based approaches are used to:

  • keep fish stocks healthy
  • protect biodiversity and fisheries habitats
  • make sure that fisheries remain productive in order to meet current and future needs

The federal government is protecting marine and coastal ecosystems through the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan. This is creating new governance arrangements with Indigenous peoples and local communities in marine planning, monitoring and protection activities. One focus of attention is the impact on Canadians’ quality of life, especially in coastal communities, from dangers such as the introduction of aquatic invasive species via shipping and marine pollution. In addition, the Plan complements:

The federal government is also investing in collaborative approaches to conservation, such as those enabled by the Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk. The fund supports protection and recovery efforts in priority places and to address priority threats.

The Government of Canada collaborates with provincial and territorial partners through the National Aquatic Invasive Species Committee under the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister to implement the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulation and manage the threat that invasive species pose to Canadian ecosystems.

Through the Whales Initiative investment of $167.4 million in 2018 and additional funding since, the Government of Canada has taken action to address human-based threats against endangered cetaceans. All measures have been implemented through collaboration with Indigenous communities and stakeholders to support the protection and recovery of endangered whale populations. The initiative focuses on protecting North Atlantic right whales, Southern Resident killer whales, and St. Lawrence Estuary belugas from human-based threats that include:

  • threats from noise and other disturbances
  • entanglements in fishing gear
  • vessel strikes
  • prey availability
  • contaminants

The Government of Canada conducts ocean monitoring to assess the state of coastal and offshore waters. This aims to better understand and predict the future state of Canada’s oceans. Canada works with domestic and international partners, particularly the United States, to coordinate ocean acidification observing and monitoring activities.

To date, the enhanced Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Support Program, (the ”Ghost Gear Fund”) has successfully removed more than 739 tonnes of ghost gear from Canadian waters.  The program supports domestic and international initiatives that:

  • retrieve ghost gear
  • dispose of fishing related plastic waste
  • test improved fishing technologies

The Government of Canada is committed to advancing Marine Spatial Planning. This is done by working with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous governments to take a collaborative, science and Indigenous knowledge-based approach to sustainably managing our oceans.

What Canada is doing to improve life below water abroad

The Government of Canada is addressing marine pollution by spearheading the Ocean Plastics Charter. The Charter is the only global framework that takes a comprehensive life-cycle approach to addressing marine plastic pollution. The Charter addresses plastic waste in developing countries, sparks innovation to beat plastic pollution, and supports innovative private-public partnerships. Canada’s funding includes $69 million through the World Bank for an international fund to address plastic waste in developing countries, and investments in made-in-Canada innovative approaches and technologies that help to stop the flow of plastics to the oceans.

The federal government works to protect marine and coastal ecosystems through involvement in international activities such as the International Coral Reef Initiative.

The federal government works in collaboration with the International Maritime Organization to advance international action on underwater vessel noise and promote the adoption of quiet ship design standards and technologies in commercial shipping.

The Government of Canada is helping to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing throughout the world. This is done through investments that strengthen detection, intelligence sharing, and support for Global Fishing Watch. Canada has also ratified the Port State Measures Agreement to prevent illicit products from reaching market.

Canada is active in World Trade Organization negotiations and other processes to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies and increase the economic benefits of sustainable marine resources for Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries.

Canada participates in the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy that has set goals that align closely with the 2030 Agenda including SDG 14.

As a member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, Canada has become a global leader in combatting ghost gear. Canada also encourages other nations to join the Initiative and take action to reduce ghost fishing and fisheries related marine litter.

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