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.
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.
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