Local fishermen, Timor-Leste
Local fishermen launch their boat at Valu Beach, in Nino Konis Santana National Park, Timor-Leste. (© World Wildlife Fund, Inc. / Matthew Abbott)

Editor’s note: Today’s post is the third in our Sea the Future series offering expert insight into the latest oceans news. The topic: the Sustainable Development Goals, which are the focus of the global U.N. Ocean Conference that begins tomorrow.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) serve as a guide for the international community to protect nature and improving human well-being. As countries gather in New York this week to focus on the health of the world’s oceans, the need for international cooperation and action is more pressing than ever.

At the U.N. Ocean Conference, leaders will grapple with some of the most challenging issues facing our oceans — from pollution to climate change to development.

The conference is part of a global commitment to enact Goal 14, “Life Below Water,” one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals that aim to end poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change by 2030. As humanity pushes the limits of Earth’s ability to sustain us, these critical goals represent the first-ever attempt by the global community to map a clear and holistic pathway for sustainable development — and to hold nations accountable for their progress.

In 2012, 193 countries came together in Rio de Janeiro and agreed to these universal goals, which specify social, economic and environmental targets for governments to meet. Examples include creating sustainable cities, spurring clean and affordable energy and providing quality education. Within the 17 goals, negotiators identified 160 specific…