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Blue Economy presents need to capitalize collective action for our shared ocean


July 1, 2022 • 5 min read

by Bernard McCaul, LAC (Latin America and Caribbean) Regional Director & Deputy Director, Programme Design and Innovation, GOAL

The science is clear – our oceans are facing unparalled threats, primarily because of human activities, including those accelerating the climate crisis.

Our planet’s largest biosphere is home to up to 80 percent of all life on earth and generates 50 percent of the oxygen that humans consume. It also absorbs 25 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions and captures 90 percent of the additional heat generated from those emissions. As our largest carbon sink, it is a vital buffer against climate change and clear that we need to safeguard our ‘blue resources.’

Over three billion people across the world, depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. The fisheries and aquaculture sector are a vital source of nutritious food and economic opportunities that play a pivotal role in meeting one of the world’s greatest challenges: feeding a population set to rise to 9.6 billion people by 2050.

Yet, the oceans’ health and ability to sustain life could continuously worsen as the world population grows and human activities increase. It certainly will if we proceed to exploit the oceans unsustainably. A different vision is needed for sustainable management of the oceans and coastal resources. Enter the Blue Economy.

The Blue Economy

The Blue Economy supports the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem. Essentially, promoting the Blue Economy is promoting the transformation of resources from scarcity to abundance, addressing the issues that cause environmental problems, as well as addressing subsequent cycles of conflict and poverty. For sustainable development, food security, and humankind, it is imperative that we work together in achieving a sustainable Blue Economy.

To many of the worlds poorest communities, fisheries are particularly important where fish present a critical source of protein. Fisheries-related employment opportunities have also enabled young already disadvantaged people to stay in their communities and they have strengthened the economic viability of isolated areas, often enhancing the status of women in developing countries.

For millions of people around the world, healthy fisheries, the growing aquaculture sector, and inclusive trade lead to more jobs, resilience against climate change, increased food security, improved equality and reduced poverty.

Small Fisheries and GOAL’s Work

By 2025, an estimated 75% of the world’s population will live in coastal zones. Approximately 90% of fishermen and women, globally, are small-scale or ‘artisan’ and are responsible for 50% of all catches. Evidence shows that overfishing, the loss of key habitats such as wetlands and mangroves, uncontrolled urbanization, among other factors, puts the social, economic, environmental, and cultural productivity of artisanal fisheries at risk.

Promoting and supporting the Blue Economy can help reverse these threats by addressing unsustainable extraction from marine resources. These include unsustainable fishing, physical alterations to and destruction of marine and coastal habitats and landscapes due to costal development, deforestation and mining, marine pollution, impacts of climate change with events such as sea-level rise and intense frequent weather events, unfair trade, and the loss of mangrove forests.

Informed by more than a decade of promoting the Blue Economy in the LAC region, GOAL’s ‘Resilience of the Blue Economy’ programme aims to support the critical role of coastal communities to address the multiple challenges and opportunities present in the Blue Economy through an integrated ‘Local Systems’ approach. From improved livelihoods and increased incomes, food security, protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, inclusion, good governance, climate adaptation and mitigation to strengthened resilience.

UN Oceans Conference (UNOC)

This week’s UN Oceans Conference (UNOC), co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal in Lisbon, offers a vital platform for mutual engagement to seek to address existing and new challenges, that the COVID-19 pandemic has also laid bare. These challenges require concerted, collective efforts to achieve solutions that are anchored in UN Sustainable Development GOALs (SDGs).

GOAL will be presenting their ‘Resilience of the Blue Economy’ strategy during the UNOC side event “From Ocean Action to Knowledge: Developing capacity to create a sustainable ocean economy” co-hosted with UN and international marine institutions, on Thursday 30 June.

GOAL’s Recommendations at UNOC

The strategy recommends actions such as a renewed focus given to all integral dimensions of the Blue Economy and the necessity of fostering global and transnational cooperation among organisations and countries towards a shared global-local approach. GOAL also promotes Global Citizenship, recognising that we all share responsibility for a better world. This can be done by amplifying messaging and recommendations by engaging with and educating key stakeholders like youth, as well as the wider public.

GOAL also stresses the need for further academic research and learning in relation to local systems and their contribution to a Resilient Blue Economy, as well as the need for equitable access to marine coastal resources by local communities.

GOAL’s work on the Resilience of the Blue Economy in the LAC region has consequently over the last decade been a journey that has sought to demonstrate how true sustainability in the Blue Economy may be achieved through a local systems approach, and the translation of science and innovation into action.

Promoting the Blue Economy is inextricably linked to alleviating poverty, which the SDGs and work of humanitarian organisations like GOAL ultimately aim to do. With over 181 million people in 41 countries facing food insecurity and hunger in 2022, sustainable fisheries and a thriving Blue Economy can be part of a solution to ending hunger.

The full GOAL Blue Economy discussion paper can be seen here: