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by Kelly Secrest June 24, 2020 6 min read

You may have never heard of the Blue Economy, but it is an important emerging concept that is increasing in popularity. Some people associate this term with the “Green Economy,” which aims to minimize the risks and use of ecological scarcities in energy, transportation, agriculture and other land activities to stop the degradation of the environment, animals and plant life. Related but different, the Blue Economy is defined as the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.” Essentially, protecting the biodiversity of the ecosystems of all oceans, seas, and how coastal activities interact with that marine economy. The Blue Economy includes the global water crisis, climate change, renewable energy, and marine industry expansion. The Blue Economy provides a framework for the global community to actively participate in the conservation of our water’s necessary natural resources and to help develop and implement more sustainable economic habits to protect our oceans. This term is linked to Blue Growth, a long-term strategy for promoting sustainable growth of marine and maritime activities in a planned, sustainable way.

Photography Credit: Bluebird Marine Systems

If you do not already, you need to start viewing the ocean as more than just a means for economic growth.  Many of the controversies about this issue revolve around people who want to economically profit from the sea through activities, such as industrial development, but don’t want to take environmental sustainability and needs of the aquatic communities into consideration.  Businesses exploit our oceans’ resources through maritime transports, commercial fishing and energy mining industries.  The marine industrial revolution was driven by deep-sea oil drilling, and many important industries were created using international ocean trade.  These activities all have a very real effect and jeopardize marine wildlife and biodiversity, which affect the future health of ocean ecosystems. Stanford scientist, Steve Palumbi’s study shows that “the industrialization of the oceans mirrors the early stages of activities that have triggered mass extinctions on land.”

Photography Credit: WorldBank Blogs
It is essential to clarify what is included in the Blue Economy.  It includes many activities, such as maritime transport, fisheries, renewable energy, tourism, climate change, and waste management.  Currently, more than 80 percent of foreign goods are transported by sea, and this number is projected to double by 2030 and quadruple by 2050.  These statistics show that transporting goods by sea is an activity that will continue, so finding more sustainable solutions is a necessity.  Because fisheries are a significant contributor to GDP, methods such as creating and protecting marine protected areas will help to rejuvenate the fisheries and increase revenue. Renewable energy plays a vital role in the world’s social and economic development. The ocean can generate two forms of renewable energy; heat from the light, and mechanical energy from waves and tides. Oceans cover over 70% of the Earth’s surface; therefore, they are the world’s largest solar collectors. Maritime tourism creates many jobs and fuels economic growth.  This tourism accounts for approximately 72% of the ocean economy’s total employment and relies on the natural part of our Earth, such as maintaining coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass meadows.  Mangrove recreational fishing contributes one billion per year to Florida’s economy and is a great economic example.

It is predicted that the maritime tourism industry will add the largest value to the ocean economy by 2030, so it is essential to take action now.  Our oceans are being destroyed by climate change as sea levels are rising, coasts are eroding, ocean patterns are shifting, and ecosystems are being destroyed.  Another important activity is waste management, as 80% of litter found in our ocean comes from land sources. This activity includes marine pollution, which comes from plastics, wastewater, sewage, runoff, and chemicals.  If we can improve our efficiency and effectiveness in disposing of these wastes, our oceans will be significantly cleaner, and the ecosystems will have an opportunity to recover. Despite decades of efforts to reduce marine debris, discarded plastic and unwanted fishing nets are still an increasing problem for the world’s oceans and marine life. Addressing the broad range of economic sectors, joining forces, and instilling policies are essential ways to understand this vast marine ecosystem and many aspects of oceanic sustainability. 

Photography Credit: WorldBank Blogs

So, why is it important?

Developing our Blue Economy should matter because its results will affect every person on our planet, now and into the future.  Why?  Because the oceans are a crucial element in sustaining our current lifestyles.  The oceans provide more than half of the oxygen we breathe and consist of an ecosystem that inhabits millions of species.  They provide jobs for many families and economies, and the fish and organisms contribute to a significant portion of most people’s diets.   At least one-sixth of animal protein is provided by the oceans.  On a global level, this Blue Economy represents 5.4 million jobs, generates trillions per year, and over three billion people depend on oceans for their livelihoods.
The sustainability of the oceans worldwide is of vital interest to all humankind. This economy helps to protect and develop carbon sequestration and coastal resilience.  The Blue Economy is beneficial to the fight on climate change as sustainable actions keep our planet cool, and according to the World Bank, oceans “absorb about 30% of global CO2 emissions.”  There is a major push toward fighting climate change, and changing global policies with the Blue Economy framework will help this vital mission.  As many companies turn toward the oceans to find resources once they have depleted the terrestrial areas, it is crucial to make them aware of this framework.  To clarify, the Blue Economy model does not support companies turning to land resources as opposed to ocean resources, but it encourages people to take better care of the oceans and resources by acting in sustainable ways.  It aims for the improvement of human wellbeing and social equity while reducing environmental risks.

Interesting Ocean Facts:

-80 percent of all life is found in the oceans 
-⅔rds of ocean species haven’t been discovered
-More people have flown to the moon than have dived the deepest trenches of the ocean

Photography Credit: Euractiv Network

Successful Actions Taken Under the Blue Economy Framework

Before you get discouraged with this vast undertaking, you must know that there has already been a lot of success with the Blue Economy!  And there is lots of potential under the Blue Economy framework to improve our sustainable actions if we all continue to make efforts to educate and act on sustainability.  Many countries have joined in the undertaking of supporting the Blue Economy concept.
In 2012, the European Union proposed a “Blue Growth” strategy with three main aspects to make Blue Growth the primary concern of marine policies.  This strategy specified essential development areas and laid out clear measures for the future.  Many initiatives were created to increase the sustainability of the coastlines and seas as well as bring together maritime business authorities and public authorities with common sustainability goals.  The first of the three sectors of this framework is to promote sustainable job and growth sectors.  The second area that is stressed is providing knowledge and legal certainty between countries.  The third component of this strategy is related to sea basins and ensures that there would be cooperation globally.  The discussed sea basins include the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the North Sea.

Photography Credit: Euractiv Network

Indonesia has also drafted principles to develop sustainable fishing industries and marine environments.  They have set goals to improve their policies and set up demonstration zones to explore and best optimize the Blue Economy model associated with seaside tourism, maritime economy layout, bay development, and marine fishing.  These zones function to attract maritime industries and coordinate land and sea companies to innovate marine management systems.  They play an important role in marine energy and commercial projects.
China has taken a unique approach to the development of its Blue Economy by focusing on scientific innovations.  They want to use science and technology to focus on the marine economy and the creation of  20 demonstration zones.  They plan to open a world-leading modern education center of marine science.  China has succeeded in many areas already as they have created a basic system of the modern marine industry, improved their innovative capabilities, and have met several marine requirements that lead them to create a prosperous marine society.
Many countries have taken direct action and have seen results.  Each of these countries’ success should be a motivator for each of us to do our part! Whether educating ourselves or those around us about the problems our oceans face or participating directly in sustaining actions, we can help save our Blue Economy, the oceans, and Earth at the same time! Make sure to practice sustainability at home!

Photography Credit: Euractiv Network

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