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The Biggest Threat to Life Below Water? Apathy

Image credit: Velvetfish/Marine Stewardship Council

Our oceans have never been more threatened. The great challenges of overfishing, climate change, pollution and habitat loss have taken a terrible toll, jeopardising vital fish stocks and the lives and livelihoods of the hundreds of millions who depend on them.

But there’s another problem that’s seldom mentioned: Apathy. Unlike many of the issues facing the ocean, it’s one that should be easy to put right. And ironically, it’s one that nobody is really talking about.

Without doubt, the sustainability of our oceans has risen up the political agenda in recent years, catalysed by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — 17 goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. Goal 14, “Life below water,” tackles the oceans, calling on the international community to end overfishing and restore fish stocks; protect ecosystems; and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Like the other SDGS, it aims to galvanise industry, governments, NGOs and academics around a common framework for action. Like the others, it’s an ambitious goal with an ambitious 2030 deadline.

So, what’s the problem?

Oceans not a priority

For all their importance to people and nature, the oceans are often out of sight and out of mind, and don’t feature prominently on the planetary priority list. A recent survey of 3,500 leaders in the Global South revealed that SDG 14 was almost universally considered the least important of the Goals, with just 5 percent of those questioned including it in their top six. A second study of more than 500 sustainability experts by research consultancy GlobeScan came to a strikingly similar conclusion: SDG 14 was ranked last for importance, and second last for attention so far paid.

Join a global conversation to trigger more action

To help address the apathy, and to drive further discussion, collaboration and action, GlobeScan has teamed up with the Marine Stewardship Council and Nomad Foods to host a live, moderated online conversation on SDG14.

The discussion, part of GlobeScan’s SDG Leadership Series, will bring together stakeholders across the world to explore how to accelerate progress on protecting and restoring ocean biodiversity. It’s free to attend and open to anyone who shares an interest or expertise in protecting life below water.

This dynamic, real-time conversation will focus on uncovering key challenges, inspiring new thinking and exploring practical, best-practice solutions, including

  • How retailers, restaurants, caterers and consumers can drive a switch to certified sustainable sourcing. Ultimately, fishing needs to be sustainable and sustainability needs to be accessible. Sending that signal down the supply chain further incentivises this change.
  • How business, academia and NGOs can work together to mobilise capital and accelerate change where it makes the biggest difference.
  • How organisations can collaborate to identify, iterate and implement promising new solutions to sustainability challenges.

In the end, the threat to our oceans doesn’t just come from overfishing or climate change, great garbage patches of plastic or rising seas, habitat loss or illegal fishing. It comes from apathy.

Life under water may be out of sight, but if we want to safeguard it for the future, it must be front of mind.

Join us on November 28th, 2018 to help make progress on SDG14.

You can register here for the SDG Leadership Forum for Goal 14: https://www.globescanforum.com/sdg14/.


Caroline is based in London and leads GlobeScan’s team in Europe, working with some of the world’s most influential brands.

She has more than two decades of experience in stakeholder and consumer consultations, covering topics relating to reputation, sustainability… [Read more about Caroline Holme]


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