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Oceans and fisheries
News announcement19 July 2023Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries2 min read

Life below water: how far is the EU in implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

Sea breams Sarpa salpa, Sicily, Trapani, Italy ©damedias/
Sea breams, Sicily, Italy

Today, the European Commission presents its first-ever voluntary review on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

Halfway through the implementation of its 2030 Agenda the record is clear: much has been achieved, but a lot is left to be done.

The SDG 14 “Life below water” presents moderate but clear progress in the EU:

  • Significant progress achieved under the common fisheries policy (CFP), but sustainability levels have yet to be reached for all fisheries.
Fish stocks harvested sustainably in the EU. Thanks to the common fisheries policy more fish stocks are harvested sustainably but more effort is needed. Graph is showing 5 stocks in 2009 compared with 60 stocks today.
  • Progress was made to establish Marine Protected Areas (MPA), but more work is needed, notably for strictly protected MPAs.
EU seas, today vs. target. Today below 1% is strictly protected compared to 10% target. Today there are 12% marine protected areas compared to 30% target.
  • Because of pollution and acidification, marine ecosystems remain under stress: good environmental status by 2020 has not been reached under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

Through its international partnerships and leadership, the EU is championing ocean protection on a global scale by

Virginius Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: 

"The EU is committed to achieving the United Nations' sustainable development goals. It's all interlinked. We need a healthy ocean for a healthy planet and healthy people."

The EU Green Deal and its specific strategies and initiatives are boosting the EU’s capacity to meet the Agenda 2030 objectives

  • The EU Biodiversity Strategy intends to protect at least 30% of its land areas and 30% of its sea areas by 2030
  • The proposal for a Nature Restoration Law proposal sets out binding targets to restore degraded ecosystems
  • The Marine Action Plan will step up action to ensure fisheries are sustainable and minimize their ecosystem impacts


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.

Since 2015, the EU has been placing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the core of its policy, legislation, and funding.

Out of the 17 SDGs, success in reaching SDG 14 is linked to making progress in

  • SDG 2 - more sustainable agriculture (main source of water, including marine, pollution) and more sustainable food system (including aquaculture)
  • SDG 6 – reducing water pollution and tackling more effectively the interconnections between freshwaters and oceans
  • SDG 15 – halting biodiversity loss in marine ecosystems through the global Convention on Biodiversity and the EU Nature Restoration Law

More information

Press release: The EU's Voluntary Review reaffirms commitment to delivering the Sustainable Development Goals at home and around the world

EU VOLUNTARY REVIEW on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

SDG 14 Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development


Publication date
19 July 2023
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries