Blue economyThe “blue economy” is a term that has become increasingly prevalent over the last decade as people, governments and economists have begun to recognize the vast opportunity posed by the ocean and its resources. The World Bank defines the blue economy as the: sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem.” 

The blue economy sits at the nexus of people and the environment. Although people have lived in coastal environments and utilized ocean resources for millennia, the blue economy represents a consolidated and conscious sustainable development strategy that aims to incorporate the ocean into all levels of the economy – from local to national.

10 Countries Incorporating the Blue Economy into Their Development Strategies

  1. Kenya: The blue economy is a pillar of Kenya’s “Vision 2030,” the country’s development program. One of the major goals is to develop the country’s offshore tuna fishery, which domestic fishers currently underutilize. Other initiatives include seaweed farming, port developments, shipping and tourism.
  2. Vietnam: In Vietnam, the blue economy is a relatively new concept. However, local initiatives have already begun. For example, the Binh Thuan Fisheries Association has established a community management program to encourage sustainable fishing practices. The program resulted in the restoration of the clam fishery, the main source of income for the local community, in less than a year. The new fishing practices which the program brought resulted in the income of local fishers increasing from $15 to $25 per day.
  3. Samoa: Released in 2020, the Samoa Ocean Strategy is a national policy framework seeking to further develop the country’s blue economy. It includes a commitment to protect 30% of the country’s ocean by 2025 as well as support for marine spatial planning and sustainable fisheries.
  4. India: With a coastline of over 7,500 kilometers, the blue economy is developing into a significant industry in India. One notable initiative is recent expeditions into the deep sea to explore potential living and nonliving deep-ocean resources.
  5. China: China was an early and active adopter of the blue economy concept. One example of a small-scale blue economy initiative in China is the restoration of seagrass beds in the traditional fishing village of Chudao to support sea cucumber aquaculture, according to a 2020 article.
  6. Trinidad and Tobago: This Caribbean nation is part of a larger region-wide focus on developing a sustainable blue economy. Strategies are very new in this region, but a number of opportunities are there and the nation is emphasizing the establishment of cross-sector policies and strong institutional regulation.
  7. Tunisia: The Tunisian government has recently begun to develop a national strategy. The country is still in the early stages of implementation but has significant incentives considering that over 66% of its population lives on the coast and depends on marine resources for their livelihoods.
  8. Gambia: Gambia has recently adopted a 10-year plan to support sustainable growth and female employment in its significant mangrove oyster fishery sector. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the EU are implementing the program.
  9. Portugal: The Portuguese government has been actively trying to enhance its blue economy since 2015. The country has recently received €392.6 million from the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund to support further implementation of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.
  10. Costa Rica: The coastal country of Costa Rica is rich in marine resources and economic opportunities, with projects involving sustainable fisheries and marine tourism emerging. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) provided funding to a number of Central American countries including Costa Rica to support the development of blue economies in these countries.

Realizing the Potential

These 10 countries provide only a tiny cross-section of the blue economy landscape emerging across the world. Countries are realizing the ocean’s potential to alleviate coastal poverty and lift overall economic performance. Strategies already in place and being developed will help pave the way to better global ocean management with benefits for both people and the environment.

– Amy McAlpine
Photo: Flickr

Blue Economy
With over 70% of the world covered by the ocean, economists across the world are working to discover ways to integrate its varied resources into the world economy. One of the newest and most innovative visions of the future of the marine economy is termed the “Blue Economy.” This vision states that the responsible use and stewardship of the world’s maritime resources can be used as a tool for unprecedented economic growth, the fight against world poverty and the sustainability of the ocean environment. The strategic and sustainable use of the oceans has incredible growth potential and is also appearing to be a key factor in the development of small island nations.

Growth Potential

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has projected that by 2030, the ocean economy will double from 2010 levels, adding $3 trillion to the global economy.  The World Bank has already invested $3.67 billion USD in its Blue Economy program, underscoring the universal acceptance of its potential. Today, fisheries contribute $270 billion USD  to the global economy, and with more sustainable fishing practices in place, their contribution to the global GDP will only continue to grow. Eighty percent of global trade currently operates via ocean transport and, according to the World Bank, the volume of seaborne trade is expected to quadruple by 2050.

One country that is currently experiencing the results of the Blue Economy is Bangladesh. Bangladesh has large growth potential in the maritime arena given that, according to the World Bank, it has recently gained international clearance to use the resources of a 121,110 square kilometer marine area “equivalent to more than 80 percent of the country’s total land area”.  The highest growth sectors of the new Bangladeshi Blue Economy are fisheries, shipbuilding, offshore renewable energy, shipping and tourism.  The World Bank projects that further key investments in the Blue Economy could produce a “ten-fold increase” in the production of aquaculture in Bangladesh. The prospect of job creation and economic transformation for the country’s poorest coastal populations is promising.

Includes the World’s Poor

Some of the world’s poorest countries have broad access to ocean resources: thus, the integration of the Blue Economy could provide economic benefits for countries and individuals as well as greater food security and improved health. By reducing pollution in the oceans, more people could be able to find work in the booming aquaculture economy. Governments’ efforts to maintain sustainability has the potential to increase their transparency and stability, leading to better resources for their citizens. Rising ocean levels disproportionately affect the world’s poorest countries; however, the blue economy will work to stem these changes.

Evidence of the inclusivity of the Blue Economy comes from the West African nation of the Gambia. In 2012, an organization of female oyster harvesters gained exclusive rights from the Gambian government to a key fishery. Due to the high quality of the local natural resources, the price of oysters harvested in this area doubled. As a result, nearly 400 women in the organization gained access to microloans and financial literacy programs able to aid in their fight against poverty.

Future Focused

The Blue Economy has a focus on sustainable technologies. Offshore renewable energy would provide small developing island and coastal nations with many high demand jobs in addition to energy benefits. Offshore renewable energy is more reliable than land-based technologies and does not have the same adverse effects on the environment that fossil fuels do. Offshore renewable energy is taking off across the globe, and if the world’s poorest countries are included in its growth, it could lead to developmental benefits for those nations.

The Blue Economy is a vision for the future that maximizes sustainability, production and anti-poverty mechanisms. Since many of the world’s poorest countries have a lot of access to ocean resources, aquaculture could provide them with new economic possibilities. With rising ocean levels, which have a greater effect on poorer countries, the Blue Economy could stem those changes and hold the key to a more prosperous future.

Garrett O’Brien
Photo: Flickr

Kenya_Economy“The New Frontier of African Renaissance” is the “blue economy,” according to the African Union. The United Nation’s Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) recently released a handbook on how Africa can make the most of its vast coastal and freshwater resources.

Out of 54 total countries in Africa, 38 are coastal, including the fastest growing economy on the continent, Kenya. Last year, Bloomberg ranked Kenya the third fastest growing economy in the world. The key to its success has been a strong blue exporting economy.

The backbone of Kenya’s private sector is its horticulture and tea industries, which are both export markets. Kenya not only produces the most black tea in the world, but it also exports the most. However, while neighboring nations like Tanzania produce more horticulture than Kenya, Kenya’s well-designed shipping infrastructure makes it a vastly superior exporter.

The economic trend visible in Kenya is that even when production is comparatively low, a streamlined exportation system can cause a big economic boom. The new handbook by the ECA explains how African nations can use their coastal status to promote long-term growth.

As in Kenya, the handbook emphasizes the blue economy involving shipping and other markets. The ECA calls for an update of maritime transportation to make Africa a center for global trade.

An overarching theme of the handbook is sustainability, particularly the use of hydroelectric power over petroleum or coal. As expected, Kenya mirrors the ECA’s suggestion, with 71 percent of national electricity coming from hydroelectric sources.

It will take a lot of work to make the handbook’s blue economy a reality. Countries with big shares of coastline like Eritrea and Somalia nonetheless trail far behind economically due to political instabilities in its region. Furthermore, the other African nation seeing major GDP growth, Nigeria, is heavily reliant on oil exports–the opposite of what the ECA suggests.

While the ECA cannot expect changes overnight, Executive Secretary Carlos Lopes is hopeful that Africa will benefit massively from a well run blue economy. According to Lopes, “If fully exploited and well managed, Africa’s Blue Economy can constitute a major source of wealth and catapult the continent’s fortunes.”

John English

Photo: Flickr