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SDG 14 in Action: The Ocean Foundation

SDG 14 aims to support and protect the world’s oceans. Oceans that are under threat like never before. 

Oceans and fisheries support the global population’s economic, social and environmental needs. They are the source of life of the planet and the global climate regulator. They are the world’s largest ecosystem, home to nearly a million known species. They cover up more than two-thirds of the earth’s surface and contain 97% of the planet’s water. Rainwater, drinking water and climate are all regulated by ocean temperatures and currents and over 3 billion people depend on marine life for their livelihood. SDG 14 aims to protect these vital resources.

Since the industrial revolution (1800) there has been a 26 per cent increase in ocean acidification and some prediction models expect a 150% increase in acidity by 2100.

Experiments have shown that certain types of phytoplankton, such as coccolithophores that are covered with calcareous plates, and some animals with calcareous skeletons, develop defects when living in an acidic environment. Marine ecosystems and their biodiversity and food webs, that human communities depend upon, are therefore likely to be affected by the accelerating ocean acidification.

The Ocean Foundation’s International Ocean Acidification Initiative (IOAI) supports SDG 14 and builds the capacity of scientists, policymakers, and communities to monitor, understand, and respond to ocean acidification both locally and collaboratively on a global scale. They do this by creating practical tools and resources that are designed to work all around the world.


Together with their partners, The Ocean Foundation designed a suite of equipment that cut the cost of monitoring ocean chemistry by 90%. To further facilitate the use of these new tools, they hold training around the world and provide long term support through equipment, stipends, and ongoing monitoring. Since 2003, they have fostered innovation and developed strategic partnerships to support scientists, policymakers, and communities around the world. 

Their Work

The work of the IOAI helps to implement SDG 14 and aims to strengthen organisations around the world to help reverse the trend of ocean destruction. Within the IOAI, they do this by providing a combination of technical training, financial support, legal counsel, and direct distribution of field and lab equipment. Their goal is for every country in the world to have a robust national ocean acidification monitoring and mitigation strategy, driven by local experts to address local needs. In addition, they coordinate regional and international action to provide the necessary governance and financial frameworks needed to address this international problem.

In the past 5 years they have already; led 8 regional scientific pieces of training for more than 150 scientists in Africa, the Pacific Islands, Latin America, and the Caribbean on the science of ocean acidification and how to conduct high-quality monitoring and experiments. As well as; providing 35 collaborative research and travel grants to scientists in lesser developed nations.

fish swimming around near the surface of the ocean with plastic surrounding them

As we enter the next decade, the IOAI are ‘energised by the requests they have received to help additional regions and nations take on ocean acidification through science and policy, and are hard at work to continue to develop low-cost and fit-for-purpose tools for monitoring and responding to ocean acidification, and are confident that together with their partners they can achieve their vision of ensuring every nation can monitor, understand, and respond to ocean acidification’.

The Bigger Picture

Ocean acidification (OA) is considered one of the greatest threats to the health of our ocean. Previous mass extinctions are correlated in the geologic record with increased ocean acidification. There is a serious concern among the scientific community that ocean acidification could disrupt fisheries that support livelihoods and food security, and that biodiversity will likely decline significantly in the ocean. If we do not tackle this issue and implement SDG 14 quickly, there could be devastating consequences. 

Scientists at the Ocean Acidification Monitoring Workshop in Fiji collecting water samples.

Ocean acidification is caused globally by carbon dioxide emissions and can be exacerbated locally by the introduction of carbon into the water, such as through excess fertilisation or wastewater. In order to minimise and halt ocean acidification global CO2 emissions must halt or significantly decline, and local sources of carbon must be reduced. Reducing CO2 and local sources of carbon not only helps to stop ocean acidification – it halts climate change and improves coastal water quality.

Ocean acidification is, therefore, a grave threat to the ocean, but the solutions to OA will help address the other major environmental stressors facing our ocean. The approach they take through the IOAI is to support and strengthen actors all over the world in their individual fights to understand and address ocean acidification. Scientists and policymakers worldwide look to them for advice and support. This is an embodiment of their mission as the only community foundation for the ocean. Everything they do has strengthened the ability of scientists, policymakers, and ultimately communities to monitor, understand, and respond to OA.

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