SMART marine goals, targets and management – Is SDG 14 operational or aspirational, is ‘life below water', sinking or swimming?

Elsevier, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 123, Issues 1–2, 15 October 2017, Pages 28-33
Roland Cormier, Michael Elliott


The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), adopted in September 2015, are accompanied by targets which have to be met individually and collectively by the signatory states. SDG14 Life Below Water aims to lay the foundation for the integrated and sustainable management of the oceans. However, any environmental management has to be based around targets which are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bounded – otherwise it is not possible to determine whether management actions are successful and achieve the desired aims. The discussion here shows that many of the targets adopted for SDG14, and especially a detailed analysis of Target 1, are aspirational rather than fully quantified. In order to move towards making the targets operational, we advocate merging the language of environmental management with that used by industry for linking risks to the environment, management performance and ensuing controls. By adopting an approach which uses Key Performance Indicators (‘KPIs’), Key Risk Indicators (‘KRIs’) and Key Control Indicators (‘KCIs’), we advocate that a degree of rigour leading to defendable actions can be brought to marine management.