What exactly does “Blue Economy” mean?
The purpose of a “blue economy” is to stimulate economic growth, while maintaining or improving quality of life without jeopardizing our oceans and coastal environments through a variety of economic activities which include marine biotechnology, marine transport, tourism, fishing among others- as resources and activities are dynamic and diverse across the globe. Furthermore, the blue economy also encompasses non-market services such as biodiversity and carbon sequestration.
Sectors of a Blue Economy:
The blue economy comprises sectors that relate to the ocean’s renewable resources (for instance tidal energy) as well as sectors in relation to its non-renewable resources (seabed mining in a sustainable fashion). With the global population on the rise, ocean-related economic activities develop and evolve considering changes in consumption patterns whereas demand for energy and food among other resources has increased substantially. The main sectors of a blue economy include:
- Fishing: Fishery industries have remained unchanged over years, providing a viable source of food for the global population. The environmental implications of the industry have room for rectification as overfishing and/or overexploitation fishing populations remain issues. Furthermore, emphasis must be placed on improving food security whilst lowering costs and energy consumption associated with the practice.
- Maritime Tourism: This is projected to become a profitable sector of the blue economy. Like coastal tourism, maritime tourism is heavily dependent on good water quality and environmental states. Some examples of maritime activities are snorkeling, rafting and diving.
- Aquaculture: Aquaculture is increasingly relevant to global food systems especially with increasing population, constant production increases must occur to meet an increased demand especially considering that it is a viable source of protein.
- Marine Transport: A primary method of transportation of raw materials, goods, and energy globally, marine transport is a key facilitator of global trade and contributes to employment and economic growth. Countries that lack adequate infrastructure whether capacity, ports or shipbuilding find it increasingly difficult to participate in the global economy. The effects of climate change are an imminent threat to transportation whereas it is vital to understand risks and vulnerabilities to facilitate the development of adaptive strategies.
Challenges prohibiting transition to a blue economy:
A slew of obstacles prohibits the advancement of a blue economy. The ocean is not an endless supplier of resources and human perception throughout history has negatively impacted the ecosystem whether it is being considered as a cost-free waste receptacle or an avenue for profits via overfishing. As a result of poor governance, insufficient incentives, inadequate capacity, etc, an overuse of coastal and marine resources has arrived at a point where changes have become irreversible. A few major roadblocks:
- As coastal development and mining occur more frequently, it alters the physical landscape of habitats and degrades them in the process. Threats of coastal erosion have the potential to devastate not only infrastructures but the lives of those reliant on these ecosystems.
- Unequitable trade practices can also be a stump in the road to a ‘bluer’ economy, for instance, providing misleading and /or failing to disclose market information, deceptive pricing, and restrictive trade laws between regions.
- Climate Change has the potential to exacerbate regions (sea-level rises and frequent extreme weather events). While long-term implications have yet to be discovered, temperature changes and ocean acidification have been observed over time. These events coupled negatively impact the health of the ecosystem and organisms that rely on it.
- Furthermore, pollution is a stumbling block that threatens not only the blue economy but the entire ocean ecology, as well as human health. For instance, debris pollution is also becoming a significant predictor of ocean health where plastics, metals, and chemicals, for example, work their way up the food chain and eventually end up in the seafood that humans capture and consume.
Strategies to facilitate the transition to a Blue Economy:
The transition to a blue economy is heavily dependent on sustainable development, whereas economic growth occurs inclusively without depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation. Considering factors such as the finite resources the ocean provides and how human activities dramatically deteriorated the health of oceans undermine and complicate sustainable development. Though stimulating growth in ocean-related economic activities is simple, it is sometimes unclear what a sustainable blue economy looks like or the conditions to which emergence occurs especially given the differences among countries. With that said, here are a few practices that countries can follow:
- Set SMART targets and goals that effectively chart the way to a Blue Economy and communicate them with members of the public especially parties who will be economically affected.
- Initiate fair economic and legislative rules that govern the transition.
- All plans should be environmentally inclusive to ensure that ecosystems are present for future generations and ensure that resources are efficiently and effectively utilized
- Collaboration must constantly occur between private and public sectors, in conjunction with environmental advocates, by periodically reviewing ideas, suggesting new ones, and wholly inclusive perspectives.
For the global support of the Blue Economy, international cooperation must occur with aim of charting a sustainable and prosperous future. The 14th goal of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) places emphasis on the graveness of ocean protection and marine resource management becoming more sustainable. Progress can only occur where there is a balance between economic growth and restoring, if not further degrading, marine and coastal ecosystems.