By Eugene Ambaka
The blue economy is an emerging concept which emboldens improved stewardship of oceans and their resources. The World Bank defines it as the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, elevating livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems while the European Commission expounds it as all economic activities linked to oceans, seas, and coasts.
The blue economy concept is frequently used but poorly defined with many interpretations often focusing on promoting the aggregate paybacks of individual maritime sectors such as tourism, fisheries, offshore energy, shipping, transport, marine biotechnology, renewable energy among others without clearly defining interventions of offsetting the negative impacts arising from these thematic areas. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report in 2010 estimated that by 2030 the blue economy would be worth USD3T and employ 40 million people. On the other hand, UNDP approximated economic losses of about USD83B from overfishing and unsustainable practices, USD200 to 800 from coastal hypoxia while damage from invasive species and environmental degradation is valued at USD100B.
Sustainable investing will be the new norm as we forge into the future to ensure the continued prosperity of this frontier. The multiple barriers underlying this are majorly brought about by the siloed thinking nature of the blue economy industries where ocean-based management focuses on a single line of operation rather than an integrative strategy that cuts across all interconnected sectors. The World Ocean Council, founded in 2009 provides a global multi-sector platform for bringing together international ocean businesses to work on shared opportunities and challenges of the sustainable blue economy ranging from ocean governance, marine biodiversity, science needs, and climate change to pollution towards ensuring a healthy ocean and economy.
Collaborations and integrative ocean management are vital in tackling the various pain points of the blue economy sector to counter silo thinking. The common tools used in integrative management of the blue economy include Marine Spatial Planning, one that maps the ocean and allocates areas for a specific use, and Ocean Accounting, a statistical process that calculates the stocks and flows of different uses, natural assets, environmental costs and social-economic benefits in the ocean. The data generated informs decision making, providing information on how a modification in management for one sector affects other components of the natural and social-economic systems ultimately underwriting a holistic system thinking regarding the blue economy.
Joint collaboration is, therefore, a key necessity among various sectors as oceans are a shared resource that requires a global collective approach towards conserving and harnessing their resources sustainably for human use and economic growth. Moreover, education, innovation, and technological advancements are critical to a sustainable blue economy.