Blue Growth Initiative—the Blueprint for a Strong Ocean Economy
By Jeremy Kuhles
I was a terrible economics student. I confused my micro with my macro and found my mind wandering at the first mention of international trade. Yet, I did take away some basics.
I can say with confidence that a “strong” economy is better for our quality of life than a “weak” one. And a “sustainable” economy is preferable over a “bubble.” And that we are in big trouble if our economy “collapses.”
Well, it is now twenty years later. But these fundamental facts are more relevant to me than ever. Not for writing papers or passing exams, though. By maintaining a strong and sustainable economy and avoiding a collapse we can do something remarkable. We can protect our planet.
But I’m not talking about a dollar-green economy, here. I’m talking about the deep blue of the ocean economy.
The Ocean Economy—a Delicate Balancing Act
So, what is the ocean economy? Basically speaking, it’s a balance between human activities and the marine environment. A healthy balance is key, otherwise, there can be serious problems.
Right now, the ocean economy is suffering due to human activities. Pollution, climate change, overfishing, and habitat destruction are issues tipping the scales. And these issues are affecting the health and sustainability of the ocean.
We need to find a way to restore the balance.
Who Depends on the Ocean Economy?
Before we look at how to restore, let’s take a quick moment to remind ourselves of why we need to. We all gain from a strong and sustainable ocean economy. Everyone living on this planet.
A report from oceanpanel.org describes how the ocean has “extraordinary potential . . . to solve many of the planet’s most pressing problems,” including climate change and food security.
It also states the ocean can increase the supply of sustainable energy and provide fair jobs. As well as supporting us in building back better in a post-COVID world.
The United Nations backs up this argument. They state how fisheries and aquaculture are among the best opportunities we have. This is because they can “serve the world’s growing population with highly nutritious and safe food with a low ecological impact.”
So How do we Get There?
Well, there is some good news. In 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations created an initiative. The Blue Growth Initiative (BGI).
It represents the FAO’s commitment to creating a sustainable ocean economy. The main goal of the initiative is to find a balance. It aims to align the needs of those who rely on the world’s freshwater and marine ecosystems, with the needs of ecosystems.
The initiative uses the three pillars of sustainable development as a base. These are the economy, society, and the environment. BGI is aiming for a successful blend of these to reach its goals.
Collaboration for the Common Good
Historically, the fisheries and aquaculture sectors have acted single-mindedly. Each sector has focused on goals that suit their individual interests.
The FAO labels this approach “business as usual.” In the past, individual interests might be profits and production. Another interest might be to maximize environmental sustainability. And there might be no interest in the potential social benefits or livelihoods.
Through the BGI, they’re attempting to create a business unusual. They have created a set of common goals that balance everybody’s needs—including the needs of the environment.
Following the SDGs Lead
These goals align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs.) This helps keep everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction. The goals include commitments to increasing work opportunities and financial and technical innovation. They also pledge to improve sustainable environmental management.
Reducing the carbon footprint of fisheries and aquaculture is another key goal. They aim to do this through the reduction of food loss and waste. This will lead to a boost in resource and energy efficiency.
You can read about the goals in detail in the Blue Growth Initiative policy document.
Customized Approaches for the Best Chance of Success
The FAO is keen to point out that this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. After all, the realities of the tropics vary from the Arctic regions. Instead, countries work in tandem with the FAO. Together they’re creating customized Blue Growth success stories.
One such success story is Cape Verde, an island country off the coast of East Africa. Another is Barbados in the Caribbean and another one Bangladesh in Asia.
These countries have been successful in very different ways. For example, using a monitoring tool to assess the impact of shrimp farming. Or achieving greater efficiency with energy and fresh water supplies. Blue Growth has also helped bring about economic growth and employment.
Playing Your Part in a Strong and Sustainable Ocean Economy
As with any project or initiative related to climate change and protecting the environment, there are no easy solutions. The Blue Growth Initiative helps to drive us in the right direction. But it requires the support of everyone to make them work.
Think of it in terms of the economies of our countries. It’s unlikely that many of us are in the government working on economic policies. But we all play our own roles in the economy. We work, we spend, and we pay taxes to help keep the economy strong and sustainable.
The same is true of the ocean economy.
Ocean Blue Project—a Three-Pronged Approach
Ocean Blue Project shares a similar vision to the Blue Growth Initiative. Our non-profit organization uses a three-pronged approach to preserve the ocean. We act to remove plastics from waterways and organize cleanup volunteer events. Plus, we educate the next generation on the need for ocean protection.
Ocean Blue Project also aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Our work focuses on improving clean water and sanitation (SDG6.) We also aim to strengthen partnerships for the goals (SDG17) as well as support healthy life below water (SDG14.)
So, What Can YOU do to Support a Blue Economy?
Show your support. Consider a donation to Ocean Blue Project. We’re a non-profit organization working hard to clean the world’s waterways. With your help, we’re aiming to remove 1 million pounds of plastic from the ocean by 2025. Your donation also supports education projects and ocean cleanup events.
Choose seasonal and sustainable. Learn more about the seafood you consume and where it comes from. Avoid consuming species that are overfished like tuna, sharks, and swordfish. This is a message that needs to be stronger here in Tokyo. Overconsumption of bluefin tuna is causing populations to rapidly decline.
Wash clothes with caution. Some laundry detergents contain highly toxic chemicals to marine life. Check the labels and opt for environmentally-friendly detergents. Also, opt for plastic-free fabrics if available.
Pick up that plastic. Stop plastics from getting into the waterways. Pick up discarded trash in your neighborhood or join a river or ocean clean-up volunteer group.
Catch & release. If you enjoy fishing, play your part in maintaining fish stocks. Follow a catch and release policy and stay up-to-date with local restrictions.
Educate yourself and others. Ask yourself “what you can do to help support the ocean” and share what you find. Tackling these big issues can seem daunting. But you can give others confidence by stepping up to the challenge.
Author Bio: Jeremy Kuhles is a writer, translator, and editor based in Tokyo, Japan. Living near a river and having a young family, he has every motivation to try and make a difference in the fight against climate change.