28 April 2016

Blue prosperity

Latest research from the OECD, supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, explores the growth prospects for existing and emerging ocean-based industries and their capacity for value creation including increased employment and support for innovation. The Ocean Economy in 2030, a cross-sectoral study analysing the future of the ocean economy, estimates that ocean-based industries will employ 44 million people full time and contribute roughly USD 3.45 trillion to Global Value Added by 2030. These are startling figures which underscore the value of the ocean to the economy and, more broadly, provide a supporting argument for ocean protection measures.

Blue prosperity and human wellbeing

The research demonstrates that ocean industries have a vital role to play not only economically but also in addressing global challenges such as environmental degradation, energy security, climate change and food security. We welcome these findings, which recognise the potential of the ocean economy for green growth and human wellbeing. Yet the promise of blue prosperity is largely dependent on sustainable management of the ocean. A constraining factor on the development of the ocean economy is further deterioration in the health of the ocean which would negatively impact ocean industries as well as ocean users and vulnerable coastal communities.

What must be done?

A healthy and prosperous economy, therefore, is reliant upon properly managed and sustainable use of the marine natural environment. Environmental responsibility is good business. To achieve an appropriate balance between economic growth and ocean health, marine protection needs to be higher up the political agenda. We need national strategies for the management of our ocean and more robust international co-ordination. The lack of scientific knowledge and research about the ocean and its interaction with human activities needs to be addressed so that we can better communicate the value of the ocean and ensure more effective ocean management. Economic valuation of marine ecosystems is a useful tool that can be deployed. This is something that the Gulbenkian Oceans Initiative in Lisbon has been working on. The initiative is supporting research to quantify the value of the ocean’s natural assets and ecosystem services in order to encourage better decision making around the use of the ocean.

Our future

Acting on these issues now is vital in order to create a sustainable ocean economy and safeguard our future. Sustainability should not be a secondary priority in the blue economy. Economic development and conservation of marine ecosystems are compatible and are indeed reliant upon one another. It is clear that business as usual cannot continue. Our vision is a green future in which a thriving ocean economy meets environmental standards, supporting human health and wellbeing for the long term.