Malaysia’s sea area is vast in marine biodiversity which provides livelihood to various types of marine life, from squids to snails, from various fish to oyster as well as sea turtles, dugongs and many more. Some of them are sources of food and have offered tremendous values and prospects via economic activities like fisheries and aquaculture.
As a Member State of the United Nations, we show our full commitment to implementing Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14) for a sustainable ocean by the year 2030. The SDG14 (Life Below Water) is part of 17 global goals for Sustainable Development established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. The SDG14 is underpinned by targets for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.
Malaysia places great importance to achieving the 2030 Agenda by integrating it into the Eleventh Malaysia Plan. Our government so far has aligned its implementation with the strategies and initiatives to holistically support conservation and sustainable use of ocean and marine resources. Nearly five years after signing, it comes to a question, are we on track in achieving the SDG14 set forth by the 2030 Agenda?
Challenges facing the country
Up to the present time, we have faced several difficulties of staying on our path to sustainably manage and protect the marine environment and its resources. The distress that appears is thought to occur due to several factors, which are marine pollution, climate change as well as the depletion of marine and ocean resources.
Marine pollution is a complex environmental problem and is plaguing us for quite a long time. As a maritime nation, Malaysia has a high dependence on the sea for its economic development. The increase in polluting activities in many sectors based on land and sea like tourism and shipping has indirectly contributed to the hazards within the marine environment. For example, plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues, as reported publicly.
In general, the problem of climate change in Malaysia has affected the country through global warming and rainfall irregularities. Even though there is no ample evidence of the impacts of climate change on marine environments, it has garnered much attention from Malaysian researchers to continuously study the ocean changes due to high emissions of carbon dioxide from shipping activities.
Malaysia's marine environment is endowed with an abundant marine biodiversity and ecosystems. Its ocean ecological systems encompass a wide range of plants and animals habitats. However, human activities like marine pollution, oil spill and overfishing had caused resource exploitation and widespread destruction to marine habitats. This negative impact on marine ecosystems may lead to largely unknown consequences to the survival of marine life in the short and long term.
Up to 2020, Malaysia has worked vigorously to support the SDGs namely through strategies protecting the environment, economy, and society and by aligning and coordinating the initiatives between ministries and maritime-related agencies.
Despite considerable efforts this past four years, more needs to be done to achieve the SDG14 targets. But it is not impossible if we keep working towards it we may create a better Malaysia by 2030.
Generally, the United Nations has defined 10 Targets and 10 Indicators for SDG14 in which the targets specify its goal, while Indicators represent the metrics whether these targets are accomplished or not. Thus, our point of reference has always been those 10 targets. In order to make notable progress in achieving SDG14 by 2030, we really need to keep moving forward. This should be guided by the vision of restoring and protecting the health of oceans and marine resources as per outlined in the Target 14.2 of SDG14.
In order to improve the well-being of the ocean, efficient management of the ocean and its marine resources is crucial. We need to make structural adjustments in governing our oceans and these include reviewing how we implement our current regulatory frameworks. Stricter enforcement by the relevant agencies will avoid significant adverse impacts on the marine and coastal ecosystems.
An in-depth research is needed to develop new concepts related to SDG14. The research community especially from higher education institutions should contribute to the design and development of policies so that these concepts can serve as platforms for coordinated action across sectors and for governance practices.
In addition, we need to strengthen our resilience by integrating SDG14 with other SDGs like climate change (SDG13) and protecting ecosystems (SDG 15). In other words, the interactions of SDG14 with other SDGs will be a basis for better ocean governance in these regions.
It is high time for government, university, and all maritime-related agencies to collaborate and consolidate their works and ideas towards the success of SDG14.
Effective coordinating mechanisms, coupled with great understanding, trust and open communications would ensure the goal of attaining a healthy ocean by 2030 is achieved.
Dr Izyan Munirah Mohd Zaideen is Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Maritime Studies, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT).
Malaysia National News Agency
No.28 Jalan BERNAMA
Off Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur
Tel : +603-2693 9933 (General Line)
Email : helpdesk[at]bernama.com