What is Blue Economy?
Blue economy is the sustainable use of resources in the ocean for human benefit such as food production and for the economic development of a country such as job creation while at the same time preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.
- Approximately 71% of Earth’s surface is Ocean.
- The annual global GDP from marine fisheries is worth $270 Billion USD, according to World Bank data.
- Blue economy currently generates about $300 billion for Africa, says AU.
- Almost 50 million jobs are created by Blue economy in the African continent
- Blue Economy countries include Belize, Seychelles, and Nigeria
Table of Contents
Understanding Blue Economy
For the record, Almighty God created Blue Economy as we can see in some Biblical verses, Genesis 1:20-22 and Isaiah 60:5 were specific about the goal of the Creator for the creation.
Ocean and the waterways hold resources that if properly harnessed can create millions of jobs considering the fact that more than 70% of Earth’s surface is covered by ocean, add to the country’s sources of revenue without harming its ecosystem and without put human lives (the user) to danger.
Specifically, approximately 361 million square kilometres (139.5 million square miles), is covered by ocean.
This potential of blue economy caught the attention of the World Bank which motivated the global organization to start a Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) dubbed “PROBLUE”.
Several organizations from the World Bank, The Commonwealth of Nations, and Conservation International to the United Nations have definitions, but the same aim. Let’s take a look at some of them:
To the World bank, blue economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem.“
European Commission believes that it entails “All economic activities related to oceans, seas and coasts. It covers a wide range of interlinked established and emerging sectors.“
For The Commonwealth of Nations, blue economy is “an emerging concept which encourages better stewardship of our ocean or ‘blue’ resources.”
Countries with Ministry of Blue Economy:
Countries around the world are embracing the significance of ocean and what it offers, leading to the creation of a dedicated ministry and departments to take care of ocean for their benefit. Some of the blue economy countries are:
In 2022, the North American country Belize, came up with Blue Economy Ministry and by by November 2022, the country launched policies to better protect Belize’s marine natural resources.
Seychelles, which has a marine area of 1.35 million square kilometers, in 2015 created Department of Blue Economy. The department was domiciled in the country’s Ministry of Finance.
From ocean-related recreational activities such as snorkeling and diving generate at least $51.5 million USD annually for Seychelles, according to OceanWealth.Org.
Seychelles is a typical example of a country that is harnessing the potential of its ocean and waterways with its Gross Domestic Product per capita calculated at $123 Billion (2020), the highest in that category in Africa.
The acclaimed largest economy in Africa is yet to harnessed the resources in Ocean, but on August 16, 2023, Nigeria formally created Marine and Blue Economy and appointed a minister while announcing the portfolios of his cabinet (outlined in this post), a move that has received encomiums from maritime stakeholders.
Nigeria’s ministry of marine and blue economy was the first ministry to be established in four years. The last one was created in 2019.
Components of Blue Economy:
There are more than 10 components of blue economy that be developed and utilized, not only to generate revenue for government but to reduce unemployment rate through job creation. They include:
Maritime transport and shipping:
Maritime transport involves the process whereby ships and vessels are used to move goods and people around the world.
Tourism on the ocean is a big business. The revenue that Small Island developing countries host more 41 million visitors per year, generating millions of dollars annually in revenue.
Fisheries and aquaculture:
Fisheries and Aquaculture include the sustainable harvesting of marine resources such as fish, shellfish, and other aquatic organisms, as well as the cultivation of fish in controlled environments. At least 50% of fish for human consumption is provided by aquaculture.
And of course, the total sales of fish globally are estimated at USD 406 billion, according to Food and Agriculture Organization or FAO report.
Blue economy also encompasses renewable energy, meaning the ocean’s energy can be utilized to generate power, offshore wind, tidal, and wave energy can generate electricity for companies and individuals.
Oil and gas exploration:
Beneath the seabed are oil and natural gas resources.
Polymetallic nodules and minerals found in hydrothermal vents can be explored as mineral resources.
Recreation and sporting:
There are more than 10 recreational and sporting activities such sailing, windsurfing, diving, rowing, surfing, wakeboarding, canoeing, skimboarding, underwater hockey etc.
Biotechnology and pharmaceuticals:
Research in science and technology has advanced such that marine organisms are identified and extracted and used for applications in the production of pharmaceutical products.
Ocean governance and management:
This is where the sustainability of the ocean comes in. Policies are important to drive the safe use of the Ocean ecosystem without damaging the ocean and society.
Through this, countries and states that have created blue economy ministry are most likely to sign several international agreements such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Coastal protection and infrastructure:
Developing and maintaining structures that protect coastlines from erosion and storms, as well as building ports, harbors, and other coastal infrastructure.
Other sectors of blue economy are marine research and innovation, waste management and pollution control, and seafood processing and trade.
Benefits of Blue Economy
What benefits will a country get from blue economy? Here are the advantages of blue economy and ocean conservation:
The Blue Economy can contribute significantly to a country’s economic growth by tapping into the vast potential of ocean resources. This includes revenue generation through activities like fisheries, aquaculture, maritime transportation, offshore energy production, and tourism.
This sector contributes so much to economic growth such that the global ocean economy is valued at $1.5 Trillion USD every year. It is the 7th largest economy, according to TheCommonwealth.
European Blue Economy currently creates 5.4 million jobs; in Africa, 49 million jobs were created through Blue Economy in in 2018, which generated nearly US$300 billion for the continent.
The continent can double its job creation and revenue if countries in Africa design policies to promote ocean conservation.
This is especially important in coastal communities where employment opportunities may be limited.
Fisheries and aquaculture provide a significant portion of the world’s protein intake, they account for 17% of total animal-source protein for human consumption, especially in many developing countries. Responsible management of marine resources can help ensure a stable supply of seafood, improving food security for local populations.
Help in UN Sustainable development goals:
While may see blue economy as a new filed of study, the United Nations have a long time include the new field that will help the UN to achieve its goal 14, “”Life Below Water”.
A sustainable Blue Economy emphasizes the conservation and protection of marine ecosystems. By adopting responsible practices, such as sustainable fishing methods and protected marine areas, we can help safeguard marine biodiversity and ecosystems.
The ocean holds immense potential for generating renewable energy through offshore wind, tidal, and wave energy technologies. Developing these resources can help reduce reliance on fossil fuels and mitigate climate change.
In the United State, for instance, ocean energy can be generated from waves, tides, as well as currents
Tourism and recreation:
Coastal and marine areas are often attractive destinations for tourism and recreation. Responsible tourism practices can generate revenue for local economies while promoting environmental conservation and cultural awareness.
Earlier, we mentioned that Seychelles generates most of its revenue from tourism, thanks to its ocean conservation.
Innovation and research:
The Blue Economy encourages innovation in various fields, including marine biotechnology, ocean exploration, and environmental monitoring. This can lead to the discovery of new resources, medicines, and technologies.
Climate change mitigation:
Marine ecosystems play a crucial role in regulating the climate by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Protecting and restoring these ecosystems can contribute to global efforts to mitigate climate change.
Trade and commerce:
Over 80% of international goods and products are transported via the ocean around the world. And it is expected to double by 2030, according to World Bank data.
Maritime transportation is essential for global trade, and the development of ports and shipping infrastructure can facilitate the efficient movement of goods, contributing to international trade and commerce.
Cultural heritage and heritage Sites:
Many coastal communities have rich cultural and historical ties to the ocean. In Nigeria for instance, Makoko Fish Market can be a good example on preserving maritime traditions and heritage site.
The Blue Economy encourages international collaboration on issues such as sustainable fisheries management, marine pollution reduction, and disaster preparedness, fostering cooperation among nations.
Coastal and marine ecosystems provide numerous ecosystem services, including shoreline protection, water purification, and carbon sequestration, benefiting both humans and the environment.
Challenges of Blue Economy
Ocean conservation is faced with many challenges, from policy implementation to collaborative efforts across border through variety of partnerships, especially for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Some of the problems of Blue Economy and measures to mitigate them include:
Overfishing and unsustainable fisheries:
This can deplete fish stocks, threaten the livelihoods of fishing communities, and disrupt marine ecosystems.
Pollution from land-based sources, shipping, oil spills, plastic waste, and other contaminants can have severe negative impacts on marine ecosystems, biodiversity, and human health.
Habitat degradation and loss:
Destructive fishing practices, coastal development, and climate change can lead to the degradation and loss of critical marine habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds.
Climate change and ocean acidification:
Rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification due to increased carbon dioxide levels have adverse effects on marine ecosystems, including coral reefs and marine species. Adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change is a significant challenge.
Lack of regulation and governance:
Many areas of the ocean are beyond national jurisdictions, making it challenging to regulate and manage activities such as fishing, shipping, and resource extraction. Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing:
IUU fishing undermines efforts to manage fish stocks sustainably and can lead to economic losses for legal fishing operations.
Conflicts over resource use:
Competition for ocean resources, such as fishing grounds and energy production areas, can lead to conflicts between different user groups, including fishing communities, energy companies, and conservationists.
Limited technological and infrastructure capacity:
Developing and implementing sustainable practices in sectors like aquaculture and renewable energy can be hindered by limited technological know-how and infrastructure, especially in developing countries.
Social equity and livelihoods:
Balancing economic development with the well-being of coastal communities and indigenous peoples is crucial. Displacement, loss of traditional livelihoods, and unequal access to benefits can result from poorly managed Blue Economy activities.
Data and information gaps:
Data gaps related to ocean health, biodiversity, and resource availability can impede effective planning and policy-making.
Technological and environmental risks:
Developing offshore energy technologies, such as deep-sea mining and ocean-based renewable energy, can pose environmental risks and uncertainties that need to be carefully assessed and managed.
Invasive species and biosecurity:
International shipping and aquaculture can facilitate the spread of invasive species, which can disrupt native ecosystems and threaten local biodiversity.
Access to finance:
Implementing sustainable practices and technologies often requires significant upfront investment. Access to finance for small-scale fishermen, coastal communities, and emerging Blue Economy sectors can be a challenge and it must be addressed adequately.
Solutions to Problems Associated with Blue Economy
1) Implementing and enforcing effective fisheries management measures is essential to prevent overexploitation and promote sustainable fishing practices.
2) There should be proper and coordinated waste management, regulation, and awareness campaigns.
3) Marine habitats should be protected for maintaining ecosystem health and resilience.
4) Effective governance mechanisms at regional and international levels should be established.
5) Policies around strengthening, monitoring, control, and surveillance measures should be made to combat IUU fishing.
6) For a Blue Economy country, it needs comprehensive and accurate data to make informed decisions about ocean resource management.