The oceans cover over 70% of our ‘blue’ planet. Life on earth could not exist without them. However, the oceans are under increasing pressure. This is because of many factors like overfishing, warming oceans, and ‘single-use plastic’ flooding the water. We need to rethink how we use the oceans so that we can live sustainably with them in the future.
WHAT ARE ‘BLUE ECONOMIES’?
The World Wildlife Fund says a “sustainable blue economy [is] one that provides not just economic, but social benefits for present and future generations”. Blue economies recognise that healthy oceans are vital to the survival of all life on earth. Renewables and clean technology are used to develop economically and protect the environment. The goal is to conserve the natural value of the region’s marine and coastal ecosystems.
WHY IS IT ESSENTIAL TO ADOPT A BLUE ECONOMY MODEL?
Prosperity and job security. In Africa, more than 12 million people are employed in fisheries. This means that the ocean provides food for over 200 million Africans, with many more benefiting indirectly. If fish are managed carefully so that their populations increase, individuals relying on the ocean for their livelihoods can earn more money. On a wider scale, it is thought that investing in coastal areas could raise 20.8 billion USD a year for the people of the West Indian Ocean Region.
Wildlife. Currently, it is thought that over half the world’s marine species will be extinct by 2100. This extinction would be because of a breakdown of the marine ‘food-chain’. A food chain shows how each living thing gets food: they begin with plant-life and end with animal life. In the ocean, the smallest parts of the food chain are called ‘phytoplankton’. These tiny creatures live in the ocean and produce 50% of the world’s oxygen by ‘photosynthesis’. This is a process where they absorb light and carbon dioxide, and turn it into energy and oxygen. Phytoplankton are also the primary food source for almost every type of young fish.
Even slight warming in the oceans kills these creatures. This means that none of the animals further up the food chain have anything to eat, and so also go extinct. Even small changes can destroy the whole ecosystem.
Climate change. The oceans have been harmed by climate change, but they can also help stop it. A strong coastal region can respond better to ‘climate shocks’ like cyclones. A region can be made more resilient by expanding marine protected areas, managing resources, and coastal planning.
HOW CAN BLUE ECONOMIES MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Cyclones Idai and Kenneth show how vulnerable coastal areas are to climate change. The people who depend on the ocean for their livelihoods are at serious risk from future crises. Adopting a ‘blue economy’ and “growing blue” is an approach which can bring prosperity and protection for all.