Updated: Aug 8, 2019
In 2018 at the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, the concept of the Blue Economy continued to take shape. The conference facilitated a discussion that critically examined the sustainable development of our Ocean resources. As the World continues to develop, and with global population predicted to be in excess of 9 billion people by the year 2050, ocean related issues like climate change, plastic pollution and overfishing have become increasingly popular and of significant global concern. Having environmental protection and sustainability as core values, the Blue Economy seeks to improve the livelihoods of individuals across the world and incite economic growth, all while protecting the environment.
Globally, we now show an understanding of the severity of these human-induced problems which threaten our environment daily. Social media has benefited us by presenting a platform which facilitates the instantaneous sharing of seemingly unbelievable news and graphic imagery surrounding environmental concerns. Each day, more and more people around the world are becoming connected with the issues of plastics, climate change and overfishing. This has supported a growing movement which is advocating for responsible and sustainable reform of our interaction with the environment and our Ocean. As global populations continue to experience exponential growth, the need for sustainable development has never been more clear. The Blue Economy seeks to address this concern by examining environmental and ecological sustainability while simultaneously creating a foundation for sustainable livelihoods from the harnessing of ocean resources.
Our island has a culture deeply rooted in the Ocean. Picture this: Browne's Beach. Sunday Morning. Mrs. Brathwaite having her sea bath; Mr.Jones casting his net for sprats; people exercising whether walking the beach, playing beach tennis or training; catamaran boats with hundreds swimming with the turtles and snorkelling on the wrecks; dive boats scuba diving in Carlisle Bay; many restaurants with beach chairs filled with tourists and locals; teaching kids how to swim; a fishing boat in the distance; cruise ships to the West. This is the Blue Economy.
Just two days after winning the general election in May 2018, the Prime Minister of Barbados announced the establishment of a Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy. This was a significant move for Barbados making the island one of the few countries in the world to have a Ministry dedicated to the Blue Economy. Fast forward to the present and we see the effect of this new Ministry taking shape. Much needed upgrades to the fish markets in major towns on the island are already on the way, coral restoration is actively being addressed, the expansion of the island’s marine managed areas is set to take place and there is a strategy to manage the sargassum influx. The island, led by this Ministry also banned single use plastic! Also of notable mention are the interest of international agencies and entities to collaborate on projects such as the development of evidence based and policy coherent Ocean Economy and Trade Strategies (OETS) and the IDB Blue Tech Challenge with Ten Habitat using blockchain technology to enhance the tuna supply chain which could both potentially support the expansion of fisheries sector by reducing imports and increasing exports. There is also a Fish Waste Silage Project which will aim to convert unutilized parts of fish into safe prodcuts for livestock and aquaculture consumption.
With a maritime space 400 times the land space and with such a heavy reliance on ocean resources for our tourism industry, fishing industry, and our access to imported products through seaport activity, our potential to gain from an economy centered around the development of ocean resources is significant. How can we continue to sustainably use and develop existing sectors such as fisheries and tourism while also looking at emerging sectors such as offshore renewable energy?
Is the Blue just the Green repackaged? We must not forget all of the work done over the past years in the Green Economy and how interconnected the Blue and Green are. However, regardless of colour, our country is on a trajectory to sustainable development.
The blue economy takes a holistic approach at management. It supports all of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals which collectively seek to protect prosperity while protecting the environment. We live on a blue planet; more than 70% of the surface of our planet is water. It is not simply about dollars and cents. The blue economy provides a model for us to re-evaluate how we use, and preserve the vast array of resources our ocean provides by taking into account our people’s traditional ways of life, the value of ecosystem services provided by the ocean, and practical methods we can employ to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change. The importance of a healthy ocean has never been more clear and should not be overlooked by anyone, not even our little gem of the Caribbean. We all stand to benefit, we all have our part to play and as citizens of this island, we are all members of the Blue Economy.
Written by Jawanza Small, Sustainable Caribbean intern with input from Nikola Simpson.