Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water

Sustainable Development Goal 14 pursues to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The world's oceans - their temperature, chemistry, currents and life - drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. They are particularly crucial for people living in coastal communities, who represented 37% of the global population in 2010. Oceans provide livelihoods and tourism benefits, as well as subsistence and income. They also help regulate the global ecosystem by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and protecting coastal areas from flooding and erosion. In fact, coastal and marine resources contribute an estimated $28 trillion to the global economy each year through ecosystem services.

Space technologies support:

  • Mapping and monitoring of natural and protected areas
  • Fishing vessel tracking and navigation
  • Monitoring of illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries
  • Fishery product traceability (endangered species, exploitation of fishery resources)
  • Assessment and monitoring of marine and coastal resources
  • Climate change monitoring, particularly water temperature
  • Identification of algal blooms

Atlantic International Research Centre (AIR Centre)


GNSS is used to monitor compliance with fishery regulations and the effect of protection policies (such as fishery or navigation limitations) on the marine environment. Focusing on improved productivity, Earth observation satellites collects data on different parameters so as to identify the most productive areas, allowing for more effective catches. As regards detection of illegal fishing, Earth observation satellites can be used to detect, with a higher level of accuracy, illegal fishing activities through synthetic aperture radar imagery. These data can be correlated with a GNSS-enabled Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), providing data to the fishing authorities on the location, speed and course of fishing vessels operating in Europe, allowing authorities to detect and track movement and activity in restricted fishing grounds.

UNOOSA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Portugal and the Atlantic International Research Centre (AIR Centre) to identify user needs and engage in targeted capacity-building activities on space-related technologies with a strong emphasis on SDG 14 for the Atlantic region. It will also assist the AIR Centre to incorporate the SDGs into their programme of work.

Monitoring Algal blooms


Certain algae produce toxins that, in large amounts, can be harmful to marine life and potentially to humans. Algae forming these dense layers are described as harmful algal blooms (HABs), often referred to as "red tides". Monitoring of harmful algal blooms is important for freshwater ecosystems to prevent the contamination of local drinking water sources as well as in coastal regions to avoid shellfish poisoning, and economic losses through impacts on local fisheries and tourism. Fish kills can result from the associated toxins or from the immense depletion of oxygen caused by the increased algal activity. General conditions that favour algal blooms are rising seawater temperatures and high nutrient loading from fertilizers.

Monitoring of algal blooms using space technologies is a vital tool to mitigate related impacts. UNOOSA through UN-SPIDER is offering information and advise on how to utilise space-related technologies for coastal and fresh water monitoring. UNOOSA, through the Access to Space for All Initiative, is also helping countries to have their own monitoring satellites, for example, Guatemala will launch its first satellite thanks to KiboCUBE an program put together by UNOOSA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). 

Read more information on space and algal blooms here


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