Pioneering Sustainable Ocean Research Towards Achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

This article is written by Ekaterina Kalashnikova and Karolina Högberg.

In 2015, the United National member states came together and adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, encompassing 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), ranging from topics such as poverty and education to clean water and ocean conservation. Situated in the heart of the Bazaruto Archipelago, facilitating international research and hosting the first permanent Ocean Observatory focused on multi-ecosystem time series data in Africa, the Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies contributes to various Sustainable Development Goals. Below, we have summarised how the station’s work directly helps achieving the UN’s SDGs.

SDG 14: Life Below Water

BCSS’s pioneering research efforts, encompassing a diverse range of thematic areas, firmly align with the overarching objectives of SDG 14 – conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. By intertwining its mission and vision with these global sustainability goals, BCSS serves as a catalyst for advancing scientific understanding, environmental stewardship, and sustainable practices in marine ecosystems, both locally and internationally. 

Target 14.1: By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution. 

BCSS directly addresses this target through its dedicated Marine Debris Monitoring Program under Theme 4. BCSS conducts monthly surveys across diverse ecosystems (mangrove, seagrass, mudflats, and sandy beach) to understand the influx and accumulation of marine debris. By involving trained surveyors and engaging local communities, BCSS not only monitors marine pollution but actively contributes to its understanding by scientifically driven approach and analysis, with an aim of reduction and removal. The program’s focus on recycling solutions for marine debris also aligns with efforts to reduce waste and combat pollution. 

Target 14.2: By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans. 

The objectives of BCSS, particularly the overarching goal of its Ocean Observatory, significantly aligns with this SDG target. Themes 1, 2, and 3 actively contribute to the sustainable management and protection of marine ecosystems. Theme 1 focuses on monitoring ocean dynamics over time and space, providing crucial data on climate change, ocean acidification, and pollution impacts. Theme 2’s emphasis on species identification, habitat mapping, and coral reef surveys aids in understanding ecosystems, their health, and the interactions between organisms and their environment. Additionally, Theme 3’s efforts in studying migratory fish populations and their habitats contribute to managing and safeguarding these ecosystems. 

Target 14.3: Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels. 

BCSS plays a significant role in addressing ocean acidification through its comprehensive monitoring and reporting system within Theme 1. By utilizing sophisticated equipment and methods, including remote sensing, underwater measurements, and seabed monitoring, BCSS captures essential data on oceanographic parameters such as temperature, pH, and seawater chemistry. These efforts aid in understanding and mitigating the impacts of ocean acidification, contributing to enhanced scientific cooperation and knowledge sharing. 

Target 14.5: By 2020, conserve at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information. 

BCSS actively supports the “Agenda 30 x 30” initiative through research and conservation activities, contributing to the protection and preservation of the Bazaruto seascape area. Considered a hope spot by UN’s NGO Mission Blue, led by the oceanographer Sylvia Earle, BCSS’ location in the Bazaruto Archipelago being part of Inhambane seascape, plays an important role through the commitment to protect 30% of its marine diversity by 2030. 

Target 14.8: Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity, and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology. 

BCSS’s commitment to open-access databases and knowledge sharing aligns directly with Goal 14.8. By engaging in research capacity development and sharing high-quality data openly, BCSS contributes to the advancement of marine technology and supports knowledge transfer, especially benefiting developing countries. 

SDG 4: Quality Education

BCSS’s commitment to providing high-quality, hands-on, and experiential learning opportunities in marine sciences contributes significantly to SDG 4 by preparing individuals for meaningful careers and fostering a deeper understanding of marine ecosystems. BCSS contributes to SDG 4 through its professional Scientific Training Program focused on marine ecosystems. 

Target 4.7: By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles

Professional Scientific Training
BCSS provides professional scientific training opportunities that include practical and theoretical learning in marine biology, oceanography, and environmental sciences. This contributes to quality education by offering practical skills development in scientific disciplines. 

Career Skills Development
BCSS’s training programs aim to equip participants with core career skills such as fieldwork design, scientific writing, species identification, and hands-on scientific fieldwork. This aligns with the goal of providing quality education that prepares individuals for successful careers. 

PADI Scuba Diving Certification
Offering PADI scuba diving certification enhances the educational experience by providing practical training in marine exploration. This certification not only contributes to the participants’ skills but also aligns with the broader goal of promoting access to quality technical and vocational education.

Learning from Professional Scientists
Participants have the opportunity to learn from a team of professional scientists and technical staff, providing mentorship and real-world insights into scientific practices. This enriches the educational experience by connecting theory with practical applications. 

University Credit and Career Building
BCSS programs offer participants the chance to gain official university credit (CPUs), contributing to formal education recognition. This initiative supports the SDG target of ensuring equal access to quality tertiary education.

Monitoring Human Impacts on Marine Ecosystems
Participants actively contribute to the monitoring of human impacts on marine ecosystems during their training. This hands-on involvement fosters a sense of responsibility and practical application of knowledge, aligning with the goal of quality education for sustainable development. 

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

While the primary focus is on marine environments, BCSS’s activities indirectly contribute to the understanding of the interconnectivity between marine and terrestrial ecosystems, aligning with broader consumption awareness and climate action dialogue, apart from biodiversity conservation and research. 

 Target 12.2: By 2030, achieve sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources. 

BCSS employs a scientifically driven approach to analyse marine debris, providing valuable insights into the sources, types, and accumulation patterns. This contributes to informed decision-making for sustainable resource management.  

Target 12.5: By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse.

BCSS involves local communities in its Marine Debris Monitoring Program, fostering awareness and active participation. Engaging communities aligns with the goal of reducing waste generation through prevention and education. Our research centre aims not only to monitor marine pollution but also to actively contribute to its reduction and removal. By exploring and promoting recycling methods, BCSS contributes to reducing the environmental footprint associated with waste. By reutilising and repurposing organic waste for composting in line with permaculture techniques, BCSS contribute to responsible consumption and production goals.

SDG 13: Climate Action

By understanding our ecological footprint, BCSS can implement measures to reduce its overall impact on climate change. BCSS integrates sustainability into both construction and operational practices. Sustainable construction methods and eco-friendly materials contribute to reducing the carbon footprint associated with infrastructure development. 

Target 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.

BCSS tracks and monitors its environmental impact, including carbon emissions. By producing its own renewable energy, the focus lies on becoming 100% solar powered apart from mitigation and adaptation strategies.

SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

Target 17.17: Encourage and promote effective public, public-private, and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships. 

BCSS’s collaboration with our sister organisation Kisawa Sanctuary in the “Resort-to-Research” model exemplifies a partnership for environmental and marine science, fostering knowledge-sharing and contributing to sustainable development.  

For questions about this article, please contact:
Ekaterina Kalashnikova, Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies

Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies
Host of the first permanent Ocean Observatory focused on multi-ecosystem time series research in Africa, the Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies (BCSS) was established in 2017 as in independent, non-profit organisation with a mission to protect and support the fragile ecosystems of the Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique. The research station is located on Benguerra Island, off the coast of Mozambique.

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