The Blue Economy: Importance of Ocean Conservation

The Blue Economy is sustainable use of ocean resources for: economic growth, improved livelihoods, job creation, and ocean ecosystem health. Achieving a sustainable Blue Economy requires amplified conversation, education and intentional efforts in ocean conservation. The world relies on the ocean for survival, and its human inhabitants all participate in at least one daily activity, which affects the ocean ecosystem. We are all stakeholders of the ocean, participating in activities which either support, or disrupt ocean conservation. In order to reverse climate change and secure sustainable gains, each of us must be in favour of the former rather than the latter.

How The Ocean Serves the World

Daily, people around the world need clean water to drink, cook, take a bath or shower, and do laundry. Holding 97% of earth’s water, the ocean plays a key role in sustaining the climate, the condition which affects wildlife and humanity. 86% of global evaporation occurs from the ocean and 78% percent of global precipitation occurs above it. The ocean has the responsibility of keeping other water sources alive, ultimately providing the world with enough clean water to meet human requirements. Without clean water, health is compromised, and lives are endangered.

The following facts and statistics validate the ocean’s contribution to the global economy:

  • According to the OECD, the ocean contributes about US$1.5 Trillion to the global economy annually. Tourism, Exports, fishing, and oil reserves are some of the sectors accounting for this contribution.

  • Ocean activity creates jobs; employing 60 million people globally, as estimated by FAO.

  • The ocean feeds the world; aquaculture, the world’s fastest growing food sector, provides 50% of fish for human consumption.

In tourism, coastal least developed countries and island states receive 41 million visitors per year, creating economic growth opportunities. Thailand earned US57.5 billion in tourism at the close of 2017. A 13.1% increase from 2016. (World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 2018). Coastal tourism creates jobs, and improves the livelihoods of local communities, subsequently increasing the country’s GDP. An example of one function of The Blue Economy benefiting a country and the world; but how can it be made sustainable?

The Harm We Cause, And What It Means

Some least developed coastal countries and small island developing states have over the years experienced expansion in tourism, reporting growth in receipted amounts earned from tourism and fisheries. The sustainability of this growth is however compromised by overfishing and rising ocean pollution. In 2018 Thailand indefinitely shut down one of its most popular beaches, Maya Bay. Pollution from litter, sunscreen chemicals, and boats making day trips to the island in large numbers (200 boats and 5000 tourists per day) had gradually damaged 80% of the island’s ecological system. Before closure, the bay earned Thailand an estimated 11.2 million euro per year. Similar situations have affected Indonesia and The Philippines. Jeopardising economic growth, jobs, and food security.

 

Irresponsible tourism is not the only problem. Daily human activities contribute to pollution globally. Every year, an additional 8 million tonnes of plastic is deposited into the ocean. In addition to plastic waste, 30 to 40% of carbon emissions from cars, buses, airplanes, and manufacturing plants are absorbed by the ocean, causing chemical imbalance in sea water i.e. Ocean Acidification. High acidity levels are known to affect shell growth, and likely to compromise the ability of fish to reproduce. The more carbon dioxide the ocean absorbs, the more it is likely to reach capacity and become unable to act as the earth’s carbon storehouse; worsening climate change by forcing all the emissions to remain in the atmosphere.

Ocean Conservation Measures That Can be Implemented Daily

Globally, conscious decisions need to be made in order to achieve a sustainable Blue Economy. This calls for consumer behaviour change, impact innovation in the business sector, policy change and law enforcement by governments. Intentional implementation of ocean conservation by EVERYONE.

 

The following are some of the things we could all choose to be cognisant of and act upon in order to conserve our oceans:

Waste Management

80% of litter in the ocean originates from land-based sources. While ocean clean-up, a reactive solution, is helping to restore the ecosystem, it will be in vain if plastic going into the ocean is not diverted. Disposing of household and industrial waste responsibly, sorting and channelling it into the right places, will prevent repeated accumulation of waste in the ocean. Environmentally friendly policies, and impact entrepreneurship are fundamental to creating waste management solutions and making them scalable.

 

Recycling, when practised as an end to end solution, has proven effective. BlueBenu is one practical example of an entrepreneurial venture developing products for impact. By recycling plastic waste into eco-fuel, the start-up created a sustainable waste management solution which enables customers to reduce gas emissions, while generating revenue and creating jobs. The world needs multinational corporations to adapt such waste management solutions which benefit the environment, economies, and livelihoods of the communities in which they operate. Partnering with startups like BlueBenu is one option to consider.

Waste Reduction

The reduction of non-biodegradable waste is another plausible solution to ocean conservation. Innovators have been coming up with substitutes for plastic products. Organic straws, food containers made from bamboo, banana leaves used to package fresh produce, and reusable shopping bags.

 

BZEOS is a Norway based start-up with a mission to replace plastic naturally. They have created an organic straw which is edible and creates zero waste; the ZEOStraw. To produce measurable impact towards ocean conservation, these solutions should be made scalable. There is still room for more packaging innovations to increase consumer options for responsible choices; strong partnerships between corporates, entrepreneurs and civic society will enable scalability. With support for startups like BZEOS, increased awareness and sensitisation of small businesses and communities, the year on year percentage of waste reduction can increase.

Carbon Reduction

Reduction of gas emissions will go a long way in restoring the ocean’s chemical balance. Vehicles, manufacturing plants, and marine vessels produce the biggest amounts of pollutant emissions. Governing bodies have been putting in place guidelines and procedures to help with the reduction of carbon emissions. As of 1 January 2018, all vessels under 5000 tonnes entering an EU or EFTA port must have their carbon emissions monitored, reported and verified annually. Products like the G100 Gas Analyser from Green Sea Guard enable ship owners and coastguard to monitor emissions.

 

Increased innovations within the transport sector should result in continuous reduction of carbon emission figures. However, more uptake of environmentally friendly transport solutions is necessary. Without consumer uptake, impact innovations such as Wingsail Technology, electric engines, eco-fuel, car sharing, scooter sharing, and city bicycles, to name a few, will not achieve the goal of sustainable living.  

Law enforcement

It is important for governments to be on board with the global climate change treaty – The Paris Agreement, which aims to secure a future with clean water, clean air and a healthy ecosystem for all. If every country installed and enforced laws in support of curbing climate change, it would help to ensure that citizens, companies, and tourists adhere to ocean conservation initiatives. Developed countries have made this a reality through policy change, law enforcement, and widely implemented solutions which provide capital for required infrastructure. Most developing countries, however, still have a long way to go.  Law enforcement being absent in some locations, it is even more important for every individual to take interest in securing a better tomorrow for current and future generations. It is the responsibility of each citizen of the world to treat the environment with love and respect.

 

These are just a few solutions to rehabilitate the ocean ecosystem and create a sustainable Blue Economy. Join the ocean conservation conversation. Make responsible choices every day; save the ocean, save humanity.

AUTHOR
Lovelyn Mashave is a Zimbabwean content creator who enjoys expressing herself through writing. When she’s not writing, she’s reading an inspirational book (preferably with an accurate dose of funny). She’s an unapologetic dream chaser (currently learning French in France), who supports others in chasing their own. As a Marketer and International Business Manager she has worked with and for non-profit, private, and public service organisations; managing brands, creating communication portfolios, heading and editing publications. As an educator, she has worked with students in English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in Thailand. As a traveler, she blogs at www.beyondthebirthplace.com.
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