Sustainable Development Goal Fourteen – An Australian Focus

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of goals that meet the urgent environmental, political, social and economic challenges facing our world. Utilising The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission’s SDG publication Go and Do Something, we have created easy to read focus articles looking at each SDG from an Australian, Salvation Army perspective. These articles explore how each SDG affects us locally, and include practical tips of how you can get involved. We hope this tool will be of benefit to you as you seek to partner with God in bringing about his Kingdom.


  • Prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land‐based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.
  • Sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy, productive oceans.
  • Effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science based management plans.
  • Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources.


The Issue

Oceans are a rich source of life and beauty. A total of 3.1 billion people in the world live within 100km of the ocean or sea[1], and in Australia 85% of us live within 50km of the coast. World-wide, around 820 million people rely on fishing or aquaculture for their livelihood[2].  They also provide a key food source; approximately 3 billion rely on wild and farmed seafood as their main source of protein[3]. Ensuring our oceans are healthy and sustainable is important for our health and economic stability – but it’s more than that: we have a God given purpose to look after creation.

Considering the current state of our oceans, there is a need for us to make proactive moves to look after our seas. The effects of our litter on the ocean is dramatic. It is estimated that more than 8 million tonnes of plastic is dumped in the ocean each year[4]. Litter and abandoned fishing nets and equipment entangle sea life, with 1 in 3 species of marine mammals having been found entangled in litter[5]. The term ‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ has gained traction in recent years. Currents have in fact caused garbage to converge[6] –  but scientists suggest that rather than floating debris, it is more like a ‘cloudy soup’ – as plastic objects weather and break up, forming micro plastics[7]. Microplastics, along with micro beads (found in some skin care products) can easily find their way in to the stomachs of sea life[8], and into the food chain. Around 300 species are known to have ingested plastics[9]. The CSIRO’s survey of marine debris found that ‘within Australia, approximately three-quarters of the rubbish along the coast is plastic’[10]. Most of the waste was from Australian sources, concentrated around urban areas [11], which means the problem comes from us! We need to invest in policy and behavioural change in Australia. If we continue at the current rate, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish[12].

Another key issue for Australians is the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef. Positively, this year’s federal budget allocated $500 million to reef restoration[13], after the Reef experienced an extreme bleaching event in 2016. Aerial and underwater surveys found that ‘the proportion of reefs that were severely bleached (>60% of corals affected) was four times higher’ than previous events [14].  The study predominantly attributed the bleaching to higher heat exposure[15]. While The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority warns against untrue claims that ‘The Great Barrier Reef is dead’, they do acknowledge that the bleaching “was triggered by record-breaking sea surface temperatures — reflecting the underlying trend of global ocean warming caused by climate change combined with a strong El Niño”[16]. Managing the causes and risks of climate change are crucial to sustaining our oceans.

We must also be careful not to take more from the ocean than it can replenish. 29% of the world’s fish stocks are overfished, 61% are fully fished and just 10% are under fished[17]. A recent Australian study found that the number of large fish declined by 36% in fished reefs over a 10 year period from 2005 -2015[18]. This compared to an 18% decline in limited fishing marine reserves, and no significant decline in no-fishing marine reserves[19]. Since 2006 the Australian Fisheries Management Authority have put in place stronger sustainable fishing measures[20], but researchers argue that no-fishing marine reserves are also important in meeting global sustainability targets and preserving our sea life[21].

These statistics on pollution, marine life and over fishing are challenging. We do need to take responsibility for where they are at – but not get weighed down by it. As The Salvation Army’s positional statement puts it The degradation of the earth is, in part, the result of human activity (Isaiah 24:5-6) and it is therefore our responsibility to work for its healing” [22]We are empowered as the creator’s children on earth to look after our oceans. There is joy in living according to our purpose to ‘…fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ (Genesis 1:28).


What can we do?

  • Reduce our personal plastic use. 60-80% of litter in oceans is plastic. Avoid single use plastics like straws, plastic cutlery and skincare products with microbeads. Take reusable bags to the shops. You can even use a bamboo toothbrush – every plastic one you’ve ever used still exists somewhere – probably in the ocean!
  • On top of standard recycling practices, you can also recycle soft plastics (the kind you can scrunch in your hand – like bread bags) at supermarket REDcycle bins.
  • Advocate. Countries such as France, Italy and China have already banned plastic bags. South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania have banned plastic bags – we need New South Wales to follow. Check out ABC War on Waste’s Ban the Bag Campaign 
  • Consume sustainable seafood to avoid depleting species. An Australian sustainable seafood guide is available here and a canned tuna guide here.
  • Commit this SDG to prayer both individually and as a Corps. Pray:
     – For the amazing diversity of the world God created.
     – For mindfulness of our impact on the oceans and wildlife at all times. May we strive to choose the better, more sustainable option even if it requires more effort or expense.
     – Give those with responsibility – leaders, businesses, communities – the foresight to care for the environment with actions and plans that look far into the future. May they look past the short‐term measures and do what is best for the planet.


For more reading on The Salvation Army’s thoughts around SDG 14, see the International Social Justice Commission’s Go and Do Something publication.

SDG title

[1] Go and Do Something
[2] Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations, 2018, ‘Fisheries and Aquaculture’
[3] WWF, 2018, ‘Sustainable Seafood: Overview’
[4] Plastic Oceans, 2018,
[5] Plastic Oceans, 2018,
[6] UNEP, 2016, Marine Plastic Debris and Microplastics, p. 71,
[7] National Geographic 2018,
[9] UK Government office for Science, 2017, ‘Future of the Sea: plastic pollution, p. 16
[10]CSIRO, 2017, Marine Debris Factsheet, p. 3 <>
[11]CSIRO, 2017, Marine Debris Factsheet, p. 3 <>
[13] Rebgetz, L. & Gartry, L., 2018,$500m-package-to-preserve-area/9708230
[14] De’ath, G., Fabricius, K.E., Sweatman, H. and Puotinen, M. 2017, ‘Large-scale bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef’, Ecology, Vol. 99 No.2, 2018, pp. 501, The Ecological Society of America
[15] De’ath, G., Fabricius, K.E., Sweatman, H. and Puotinen, M. 2017, ‘Large-scale bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef’, Ecology, Vol. 99 No.2, 2018, pp. 501, The Ecological Society of America
[16] The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority cited in Great Barrier Reef Foundation, 0216, <>
[17] WWF, 2018,
[18] Edgar, G.J., Ward, T.J. & Stuart-Smith, R.D., 2018,
[19] Edgar, G.J., Ward, T.J. & Stuart-Smith, R.D., 2018,
[20] Casben, L.,2018,
[21] Edgar, G.J., Ward, T.J. & Stuart-Smith, R.D., 2018,
[22] The Salvation Army International Positional Statement, Caring for the Environment, p. 2


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