The Scope of Sustainable Blue Economy

Sustainable Blue Economy Tanzania
© Dirk Ostermeier, GIZ
The ocean is perceived as a realm of infinite space, growth, and development. A Blue Economy typically includes sectors that can be categorised into harvesting living resources (e.g., fisheries, aquaculture), extracting non-living resources (e.g., oil, gas, minerals), generating new resources (e.g., ocean energy, water desalination, marine bioeconomy), and trading marine resources (e.g., marine transportation, tourism). Healthy and productive marine ecosystems could provide six times as much food from the sea, and for every dollar invested in the Blue Economy, the return would be five times as much. An estimated 600 million people indirectly depend on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods, and forecasts suggest a doubling of ocean-based economies by 2030.

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The Multiple Pressures on Marine Environments

But the ocean is also a vulnerable space facing significant threats that require urgent attention. Its environment is suffering due to continuous man-made stressors, such as overfishing and pollution, and larger scale pressures from global climate change: 35.4% of fish stocks are overfished; environmental pollution and unplanned coastal development are destroying ecosystems and further exacerbating biodiversity loss; the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events is rising; and high CO2 levels are causing ocean acidification and deoxygenation creating dead zones in the ocean. The negative effects of these complex and interconnected challenges not only lead to depleted and degraded marine ecosystems, but they also pose a direct threat to human well-being and the availability of ocean resources that we depend on. Our current efforts to protect and sustainably use the ocean for development are proving to be inadequate. This highlights the need for proactive measures to safeguard both our marine environment and by extension, ourselves.

The Need for a Sustainable Blue Economy

The concept of the “Sustainable Blue Economy” combines economic progress alongside the protection of natural marine environments and the enhancement of social well-being. However, there is no universally accepted definition, leading to different interpretations and uses of the term.

An Inclusive and Sustainable Blue Economy comprises marine-based economic development that leads to improved human well-being as well as social equity and that maintains, conserves and if necessary, rehabilitates ocean ecosystems and ecosystem services. In the context of German development cooperation, two-thirds of our partner countries are coastal and island states, for which the ocean is an essential part of life. Thus, they are intensely focused on the potential of the sea and coast for their economies. However, not all approaches, including Blue Economy strategies, fully consider sustainability in its entirety.

Comprehensive sustainability should include all three dimensions: economic, ecologic, and social. For instance, a Sustainable Blue Economy can significantly contribute to funding effective marine conservation measures (ecologic sustainability), such as the designation and management of marine protected areas (MPAs) or other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs). These areas can contribute to sustaining marine tourism (economic sustainability) and their management can include job creation (social sustainability).

The concept of a Sustainable Blue Economy is in line with biodiversity mainstreaming advocated under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and is essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.

The Importance of an Inclusive and Equitable Economy

A Blue Economy that operates at the expense of its people can entail significant risks, such as ocean grabbing and exclusion from economic benefits and livelihoods, favouring a few corporate conglomerates. The Sustainable Blue Economy advocates for inclusive governance that combines top-down, policy-led with bottom-up, community-led developments. This approach ensures that everyone – including small-scale fishers, local communities, and Indigenous peoples – can become economic developers and investors of their spaces/homes. 

In conclusion, the concept of a Sustainable Blue Economy highlights how nurturing healthy marine ecosystems not only protects biodiversity, but also provides opportunities for economic prosperity and social equity. It is important to note that while the Sustainable Blue Economy is a global term, it is implemented locally, requiring place-based approaches that consider the specific history and context of a region to move the concept from theory to practice. A Sustainable Blue Economy can harmonise the protection and sustainable use of marine resources, thereby supporting the socio-ecological transformation needed to achieve climate, development, and biodiversity goals.

Partnership Projects related to Sustainable Blue Economy

Biodiversity of eels Tanzania

BIOEELS-TZ Assessing the biodiversity of eels

CEM_CV: Fischermen Cabo Verde
Cabo Verde

CEM-CV Coastal Ecosystem Monitoring in Cabo Verde

CLIMALG-SN: Seaweed for blue economies, biodiversity and ecosystems

CLIMALG-SN Seaweed for climate change resilient blue economies, biodiversity and ecosystem services

Coastwise: Umlalazi Beach Dunes
South Africa

CoastWise Improving knowledge for integrated management of the land-sea interface in South Africa

FIDEA Partnership Project East Africa
Mozambique| Tanzania| Zanzibar

FIDEA Fishing Data East Africa

INDUCE: Fisher boats in Senegal

INDUCE Promoting a sustainable Blue Economy in Senegal by conserving fish functional diversity

Partnership Project NAMares

NAMares Marine Ecosystem Services for Marine Spatial Planning

Project Orientate Tunisia

ORIENTATE-TN Oceanographic and Ecological data for Nature-based coastal protection in Tunisia

African Penguins
Namibia| South Africa

Penguins African Penguins and the Blue Economy: Building a Foundation to prevent Extinction

Partnership Project PULSE

PULSE Taking the Pulse of the Ocean

Somwat: Seagrass Meadows
South Africa| Tanzania

SOMWAT Nature based Solutions for Mitigation of Watershed Pollution: Cross-habitat facilitation by coastal seagrass meadows

Project WASP Mauritania

WASP West African Biodiversity under Pressure