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Blue economy cash mint

Every year, the ocean economy churns out between $3 trillion (Sh300 trillion) and $6 trillion (Sh600 trillion). This includes employment, ecosystem services provided by the ocean, and cultural services. It is also estimated that fisheries and aquaculture contribute $100 billion (Sh1 trillion) per year and about 260 million jobs to the global economy. With Kenya set to host the 2018 Global Blue Economy Conference, many developing countries, especially in Africa, are formulating strategies to mainstream the blue economy in national development plans. Here are some of the key sub-sectors and activities which could help leapfrog Kenya’s and indeed the world’s economic growth, according to World Trade Organisation (WTO)

1. Aquaculture

Global population is expected to hit 9.6 billion by 2050, creating considerable demand for food and sources of protein. Today, fish and fish products supply a significant portion of the daily intake of animal protein in many developing countries.

As aquaculture supplies 58 per cent of fish to global markets, invigorating this sector can contribute to food security as well as social and economic inclusion for some of the poorest people in the world. 

In Ghana, for instance, the government is counteracting declining fish stocks, due to overfishing through an “Aquaculture for Food and Jobs Programme” that aims to substitute current imports of over 60 per cent of local fish consumption, at a cost in 2016 of $135 million (Sh135 billion), with local production.

2. Fisheries

Sustainable fisheries can be an essential component of a prosperous blue economy, with marine fisheries contributing more than $270 billion (Sh27 trillion) annually to the global gross domestic product (GDP) (World Bank 2012b).

A key source of economic and food security, marine fisheries provide livelihoods for the 300 million people involved in the sector and help meet the nutritional needs of the three billion people who rely on fish as an important source of animal protein, essential micronutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids (FAO 2016).

For billions around the world—many among the world’s poorest—healthy fisheries, the growing aquaculture sector, and inclusive trade mean more jobs, increased food security and well-being, and resilience against climate change.

3. Coastal and marine tourism

Tourism, fast becoming the largest global business, employs one out of every 11 persons globally. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism’s contribution to world GDP grew for the sixth consecutive year in 2015, rising to a total of 9.8 per cent ($7.2 trillion).

The World Tourism Organisation calculated that 2016 was the seventh consecutive year of sustained growth in international arrivals, which grew by 46 million over the previous year to reach 1,235 million. The number of international tourists visiting Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) destinations increased from 28 million in 2000 to 41 million in 2013.

4. Marine Biotechnology

Marine biological prospecting includes the discovery from the ocean environment of novel genes and biological compounds that can lead to commercial development of pharmaceuticals, enzymes, cosmetics, and other products.

Because of the low quantities of raw material that must usually be sampled, bio-prospecting can generally be considered as having more limited environmental impacts and thus be a potential alternative to more-intensive extractive activities.

There is growing commercial interest in marine genetic resources, with the rate of patent applications related to marine genetic material rapidly increasing at rates exceeding 12 per cent a year and with over 5,000 genes patented by 2010 that were derived from marine organisms.

5. Extractive industries

Offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation are already underway off the coasts of many states around the world, and much has already been learnt about the need to manage the risks these activities incur and some of the measures that can be taken to alleviate them.

Less clear, however, is the need to balance the focus on these activities as opposed to other uses, which quite often are not compatible. It is ultimately up to the coastal states to weigh the trade-offs between these potentially lucrative activities and the extent to which they preclude other uses of marine resources, including the sustainable exploitation of marine living resources.

6. Desalination

Securing adequate quantities of clean and safe water to meet the needs of a growing population is one of the greatest challenges and obstacle to development. Access to a safe drinking water is particularly critical for SIDS and coastal least developed countries (LDCs), with profound implications for economic growth, human rights, public health, and the environment.

Meeting this demand for freshwater is expected to become increasingly difficult in the context of climate change, with many regions facing more variable precipitation patterns and decreased water availability.

Water managers and planners are increasingly looking at desalination— the conversion of seawater to freshwater—as a technical, supply-side solution that can meet current water demands.

7. Maritime transportation and related services

In 2015, over 80 per cent of the volume of international trade in goods was transported by sea, and this share is even higher for most developing countries. In value terms, some observers such as Lloyd’s List Intelligence have estimated the share of maritime seaborne trade at 55 per cent of all international trade in 2013, while other estimates exceed 70 per cent.

Globally, shipping provides the principal mode of transport for the supply of raw materials, consumer goods, essential foodstuffs, and energy. In Africa, the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Association is rapidly expanding maritime infrastructure, including constructing one of the continent’s largest floating dockyards, addressing piracy through a draft anti-piracy bill, initiating 24-hour port operations to attract maritime business services and rapidly increasing maritime skills and training.

8. Renewable marine energy

Sustainable marine energy can play a vital role in social and economic development, as well as in climate adaptation and mitigation. While offshore wind energy is becoming more common, particularly in Europe, other forms of marine energy extraction are still experimental, and in most cases have not yet been developed on a commercial scale.

These other forms include wave and tidal energy and ocean thermal energy conversion. Most SIDS and coastal LDCs rely on fuel imports to meet the vast majority of their energy needs, which makes them extremely vulnerable to fluctuating global energy prices and disproportionately high transportation costs. As of 2011, the expenditure on fuel imports in SIDS reached 11.9 per cent of GDP, higher than health care spending.

9. Water disposal management

As the urban population in some SIDS and coastal LDCs has grown significantly in recent years, the need for extensive waste management systems has likewise increased. Almost 90 per cent of waste generated is sent to landfills, and the percentage of recycled and composted waste is so minimal.

Because of their limited land area, this situation is particularly problematic for most SIDS. In regards to wastewater, most SIDS for which data were available to have more than 20 per cent of their population connected to a wastewater collecting system, but the capacity of SIDS to manage wastewater is improving with better access to necessary technologies. In general, improved waste management, including recycling, is a priority for many SIDS and LDCs as they transition toward a blue economy.

10. Monitoring and surveillance

Ocean monitoring and surveillance play an important role and can include a wide variety of activities with different legal frameworks. On the one hand, it encompasses monitoring, surveillance, and enforcement of illegal activities, including illegal, unreported, and  very difficult to evaluate and quantify.

For instance, the services provided in support of the fisheries sector can be scientifically measured (for example, the role that ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrass beds play as feeding, breeding, and nursery grounds for various fish stocks, or as direct sources of food) and even evaluated. Many tools and approaches can be used to apply an ecosystem approach to the management of human activities in ocean and coastal areas.

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