Introduction of the Blue Economy

The blue economy is a term used to describe the economic activities associated with the oceans and seas. It encapsulates the sustainable use of ocean resources to benefit economies, livelihoods, and the health of the marine ecosystem. The sectors within this economy include maritime shipping, fishing, and aquaculture, as well as coastal tourism and renewable energy. Other blue economy activities include water desalination, undersea cabling, seabed extractive industries, deep sea mining, marine genetic resources, and biotechnology

Overall, the blue economy contributes over 1.5 trillion US Dollars every year, and is expected to grow to 3 trillion by 2030. It also provides over 30 million jobs internationally and provides an essential source of protein for over a third of the world’s population. 

The ocean plays a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s temperature and weather, absorbing 90% of excess heat caused by human activity and playing a significant role in the water cycle. Our seas act as the world’s largest carbon sink, absorbing 25% of carbon dioxide emissions, and provides half of our oxygen. Teeming with biodiversity, at least 200,000 known species living underwater, the intricacy of the marine food web is imperative to our survival, with 3 billion people worldwide relying on seafood for protein and healthy fats.

However, there are significant threats from marine pollutants, overfishing, ocean acidification, and rising ocean temperatures due to climate change and human activity. Without immediate action, the annual flow of plastic in the ocean will triple by 2040, to 29 million tons per year. This will have significant ramifications on the entire planet, with biodiversity suffering, disruptions to the food chain, increased food insecurity, and loss of employment, livelihoods and communities. Climate change is disproportionately affecting vulnerable and disadvantaged coastal communities and without drastic changes to current economic operations, they could face the dire consequences of the world’s ignorance.

There is an essential need for sustainable development within the ocean economy, with international agreements such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in place to assist in this cause. SDG 14, life below water, was developed specifically to develop more sustainable use of the ocean, however progress towards the seven outlined targets has been limited.

The High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy predicts that the blue economy can deliver a 21% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, in accordance with the Paris Agreement, an international treaty working to combat climate change. They have also developed an individual review that focuses on four ocean-based policy interventions: conserving and restoring mangrove habitats, scaling up offshore wind production, decarbonising the international shipping sector and increasing the production of sustainably sourced ocean based proteins. By investing $3.8 trillion in just these four targeted sectors, a cost-benefit ratio of 1:5 can be achieved by 2050, with an estimated benefit of $15.5 trillion.