“If the ocean were a country, it would be the world’s seventh largest economy” (Karmenu Vella, 2017)

The ocean economy and the Blue Growth

The ocean economy is driven by a combination of population growth, rising incomes, dwindling natural resources, responses to climate change and pioneering technologies. While traditional maritime industries continue to innovate at a brisk rate, it is the emerging ocean industries that are attracting most of the attention. These industries include offshore wind, tidal and wave energy; oil and gas exploration and production in ultra-deep water and exceptionally harsh environments; offshore aquaculture; seabed mining; cruise tourism; maritime surveillance and marine biotechnology (OECD, 2016).

As a marine and coastal analogue to the Green Economy, the Blue Economy approach is based on a vision of “improved wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities” (UNEP 2013). The concept of a "blue economy" emphasizes conservation and sustainable management, based on the premise that healthy ocean ecosystems are more productive and a must for sustainable ocean-based economies. (FAO).

The “blue growth” refers now to a more sustainable ocean economy enabling the optimum use of its resources according to the health of the ocean and its ecosystems. Investing in the Blue Economy means also unlocking the potential of the ocean to create more jobs and boost the economy.

The European Union “Blue Growth Strategy”

The European Commission recognizes that the sea and the coasts are drivers of the economy. The individual sectors of the blue economy are interdependent and they rely on common skills and shared infrastructure. For the European Union the “blue” economy represents roughly 5.4 million jobs and generates a gross added value of almost €500 billion a year.

However, further growth is possible in a number of areas which are highlighted.

The “Blue Growth Strategy” was endorsed in October 2012 at ministerial level through the Limassol Declaration. Subsequently, the European Parliament expressed its support and as a follow-up, in May 2014, the Commission tabled a Communication on innovation in the blue economy.  The objective of this strategy was to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and employment opportunities in Europe's maritime economy.

The strategy defines the main sectors that have a high potential for sustainable jobs and growth, such as:

  1. Aquaculture
  2. Coastal tourism
  3. Marine biotechnology
  4. Ocean energy
  5. Seabed mining

As well as other sectors crucial for value and jobs: shipbuilding and ship repair, transport (cargo and ferry), fisheries, offshores oil and gas.

Moreover, the strategy focuses on the essential components to provide knowledge, legal certainty and security in the blue economy

  1. Marine knowledge to improve access to information about the sea
  2. Maritime spatial planning to ensure an efficient and sustainable management of activities at sea
  3. Integrated maritime surveillance to give authorities a better picture of what is happening at sea

The conceptualization of the sustainable development of the marine environments requires the involvement of several public and private stakeholders, but above all need science-evidenced knowledge when it comes to attaining sustainability. Promoting Science Policy means focusing on how policies can come to reflect the best available scientific knowledge. This is the fundamental challenge of green and blue growth: how to use our natural resources more efficiently while ensuring that the ecosystems retain their functionality.

Blue Economy implementation strategies are part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 14 “Life Below Water” which aims, among other things, to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems, minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, regulate harvesting by ending overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, conserve coastal and marine areas, increase scientific knowledge and transfer sustainable marine technologies.

goal 14

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – Goal 14

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development