Instructional Strategies,  Sustainability

SDG 14 Life Below Water – Embedding the Sustainable Development Goals in Learning

This blog post is part of a series around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each post will dive into one of the goals and how we as educators can strive to embed these into our own courses. It is in the author’s opinion that any course or class can connect with one of the 17 goals or 169 sub-targets. By providing this blog post series, we hope to elicit some ideas of how you might also integrate a global goal into your teaching. Please refer to the USask SDG Teaching & Learning Workbook, review the USask Sustainability in the Curricula website, or scroll down for more information about the SDGs.

SDG #14 aims to conserve and sustainably use resources from oceans, seas, and marine environments. Beyond humankind, oceans support over 200,000 identified species and countless other species that have yet to be discovered. Keeping our oceans clean and healthy is in our best interests because they help protect our drinking water, weather, climate, food and oxygen. Managing the impact of trade and transportation means increasing international cooperation to protect vulnerable habitats, invest in sustainable industry practices, and address wasteful habits. Targets include mitigating marine pollution by 2025 by reducing sources of pollution from human sources on land, enacting laws that protect our oceans from destructive fishing practices such as illegal fishing and overfishing, and offsetting the impacts of ocean acidification through enhanced scientific cooperation and action at all levels. By failing to take control of marine pollution, we will have negatively impacted the health and biodiversity of our oceans species and ecosystems. The spread of hypoxic dead zones will increase, ultimately impacting key marine industries like tourism and fishing, and the livelihoods of many. USask ranked 38th in the 2020 Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings category for research on life below water and education on and support for aquatic ecosystems. Empowering students to be part of the research and learning regarding life under water will help meet the targets of this ambitious goal.

You might be able to align your teaching to this SDG if you want your students to be able to:

  • Connect the basics of our marine ecosystem to threats to its well-being.
  • Describe the role of climate change on our oceans, and the role oceans play in moderating the effects of climate change.
  • Evaluate sustainable fishing practices and the impact humankind is having on the health of our oceans.
  • Investigate a country’s legal, political, informal relationships to the sea and debate improvements to sustainable methods of collecting natural resources.
  • Identify and advocate for improved access to sustainably harvested marine life, marine conservation and the development of scientific marine research.

 You might consider having your students reflect, share, act in some of these ways:

  • Host a documentary screening. Show your class or community why protecting our life under water is crucial for our planet’s survival. Watch films such as Mission Blue or Oceans and let the imagery speak for itself.
  • The Vancouver Aquarium has a wealth of educational resources and archived live streams about marine life including topics like saving endangered species and protecting our wildlife who call the ocean their home.
  • Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre is developing a new, interactive webinar series featuring some of the impactful research, conservation efforts and climate issues in coastal communities . This series explores how networks of ecosystems and people are affected by the climate crisis, and highlights how climate action is an opportunity for positive change across different scales.
  • Review the themes and areas of expertise at the Global Institute for Water Security – connect your students with potential research or mentorship experiences.

Some curricular connections and questions for students might be:


What are some important considerations for reporting on stories of marine sustainability?

Oppression and genocide

What happens to environmental protection during times of genocide and conflict?


How does marine conservation differ from other environmental issues?

Gender politics

How is the health of our oceans related to gender issues?

Poverty, wealth and power

How are different populations affected when environmental protection is not a priority?

Social justice and human rights

How are people advocating for the protection and conservation of our oceans, seas and marine resources?

Indigenous Peoples

How are Indigenous communities protecting and advocating for our ocean environments? How are they uniquely affected by its degradation?

Health and biotechnology

How does the health of our ocean environments affect the health of all global citizens?

Peace and conflict

What conflicts have occurred, or are ongoing, regarding the protection of our oceans and their resources?


The 17 Sustainable Development Goals — also known as the SDGs or the Global Goals —came into effect on January 1, 2016 following an historic United Nations Summit in September 2015. 193 governments from around the world agreed to implement the Goals within their own countries in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Over the next fifteen years, with these new Goals that universally apply to all, countries will mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

These new, interconnected goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, while also identifying new priority areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among others.

Although each country faces specific challenges in pursuit of sustainable development, special attention is given to the most vulnerable countries, in particular, African countries, less developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing states. There are also serious challenges within many middle-income countries.

For each of the 17 goals, there is a list of specific targets we aim to reach. The targets discussed in this guide have been summarized for ease of reading. For a more detailed list of all the 169 targets, visit

This content has been adapted from the original by the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning and the University of Saskatchewan from the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation. Users are free to download, copy, print and share this resource as needed, and adapt for their classroom or non-commercial use.

If you adapt or build on this work, please let MCIC or USask know!  

Sustainable Foundations: A Guide for Teaching the Sustainable Development Goals by the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.  To view a copy of this license, visit   

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