31 January 2019: The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) has shared an update on progress in measuring four of the targets for SDG 14 (life below water). Two of the indicators for these targets require methodological development, and two require additional data.

IOC-UNESCO is the custodian agency for the indicators for SDG target 14.3 on ocean acidification, and SDG target 14.a on marine scientific research, and it provides technical support and advice to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which is working to develop measurement methodologies for SDG target 14.1 on marine pollution and SDG target 14.2 on coastal eutrophication (excessive loading of water with nutrients).

SDG target 14.1 is to be measured using indicator 14.1.1 (Index of coastal eutrophication and floating plastic debris density), which is currently classified as Tier III, denoting that it requires methodological development, and will not be reflected in the UN’s annual SDG reports. IOC-UNESCO reports that a review of existing indicators and methodologies identified four main types of indicators for coastal eutrophication. These indicators focus on the cause of eutrophication, direct effects of eutrophication, indirect effects of eutrophication and modeled indicators of the potential for coastal eutrophication based on expected influence on eutrophication from land-based activities and nutrient load ratios. IOC-UNESCO also reports that there are four main indicator types for marine litter: plastic debris deposited or washed on beaches or shorelines; plastic debris on the seabed or seafloor; plastic ingested by biota; and plastic debris in the water column. IOC-UNESCO is also working to contribute to the development of the Index of Coastal Eutrophication (ICEP).

Member States have been requested to respond to a GOSR-II questionnaire by 15 February 2019.

The indicator for SDG target 14.2 is “Proportion of national exclusive economic zones managed using ecosystem-based approaches” (14.2.1), which is also currently in Tier III. IOC-UNESCO provides an overview of progress on developing a methodology for the indicator, including a review of existing indicators and methodologies. As part of the indicator development process, IOC-UNESCO and the European Commission (EC) presented a ‘Joint Roadmap to accelerate Maritime/Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) processes worldwide’ as a voluntary commitment at the UN Ocean Conference in 2017. The target measured by 14.2.1 is “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.” In total, four of SDG 14’s ten indicators are currently in Tier III.

On SDG target 14.3, the indicator is “Average marine acidity (pH) measured at agreed suite of representative sampling stations” (14.3.1). A methodology on how to conduct ocean acidification observation has been developed, and trainings have begun on how to apply the methodology.

In November 2018, the UN Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) upgraded the indicator methodology from Tier III to Tier II in recognition of the conceptual clarity and international standards developed for indicator 14.3.1. A Tier II indicator has a clear methodology but inadequate data. SDG indicator 14.3.1 methodology provides guidance on how to conduct ocean acidification observation, using different types of technology and support on how to submit data for annual reporting purposes. In June 2019, Member States will be requested to share all data collected on SDG indicator 14.3.1.

Finally, the indicator for SDG target 14.a is “Proportion of total research budget allocated to research in the field of marine technology” (14.a.1 ), currently in Tier II, denoting the need for data. IOC-UNESCO reports that preparation for the second edition of the ‘Global Ocean Science Report’ (GOSR-II) began in early 2018 and publication is expected in June 2020. The GOSR-II is anticipated to provide baseline information to track progress made in building capacity to reverse the decline in ocean health and create improved conditions for sustainable development of the ocean, seas and coasts. The IOC Secretariat has invited Member States to respond to a GOSR-II questionnaire on ocean science capacity building and national activities related to SDG 14. The deadline for responses is 15 February 2019. [IOC-UNESCO Press Release] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Indicator 14.2] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on IAEG-SDGs Agreement on Indicators] [SDG Indicator Tier Classification as of December 2018]