There are few more powerful symbols of the international community's shared past and future than the ocean. From the earliest human migrations, it carried our ancestors to new continents, brought civilizations together, and opened the world to exploration and trade. It also connects us ecologically. Numerous fish species swim across territorial waters to spawn and feed, supporting billion-dollar fisheries and countless livelihoods. Most importantly, the ocean is the central force in regulating the global climate that sustains us all. In fact, scientists have shown that since the onset of the industrial age, the oceans have borne the brunt of consequences from excessive burning of fossil fuels, absorbing carbon dioxide emissions and the majority of the heat generated from global warming.
But even the vast ocean has its limits. All that C[O.sub.2] has turned it more acidic, effectively dissolving corals and shellfish and profoundly altering critical habitats and marine resources. At the same time, sea surface temperatures are the highest they have been in millions of years, and there is now evidence that warming is occurring much deeper than previously anticipated. New research suggests that by acting as a temperature sink, the oceans have prevented catastrophic temperature rise on land.
A 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature report called soaring ocean temperatures the "greatest hidden challenge of our generation." (1) "Hidden" because beneath the waves, warming has affected all marine life, from the smallest microbes to the largest whales, setting the stage for a precipitous collapse and putting "key human sectors [...] at threat, especially fisheries, aquaculture, coastal risk management, health and coastal tourism." (2) This threat is particularly acute for small island developing States (SIDS). We are still highly dependent on marine resources for food and income, and need vibrant ocean habitats for our tourism businesses. We are also vulnerable to rising sea levels driven by global warming, which not only threaten our coastal infrastructure, but could also render our islands uninhabitable if left unchecked.
For these reasons, the Maldives and many other SIDS, often known as large ocean States, were some of the strongest proponents of Sustainable Development Goal 14 in the 2030 Agenda.
SDG 14 comprises a number of targets designed to "conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable...