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Promoting the Blue Economy to Save the Planet

December 21, 2021 by Kate Michael
(Photo by Todd Cravens via Unsplash)

WASHINGTON — The blue economy is a critical subset of the ocean economy, according to Jason Scorse, director of the Center for the Blue Economy. And while some people may use the terms blue economy and ocean economy synonymously, he and a group of other leaders in sustainable ocean policy told The Wilson Center that just won’t cut it anymore. 

“[We must] think of the ocean for the sake of the planet and not the ocean for the sake of the ocean,” Michael Conathan, senior policy fellow on ocean and climate with Aspen’s Energy and Environment Program asserted as he joined the Center to launch its Transatlantic Blue Economy Initiative and debut the publication of a series of briefs on understanding and better managing the many aspects of oceanic sustainability.

“When I talk about the blue economy, it is always with an inclusion of an inherent element of sustainability,” Conathan said. “That, to me, is the blue in the blue economy, which differentiates it from the ocean economy.”

While this definition is still being solidified, those participating in The Wilson Center’s Initiative agree that blue economy policies and practices should improve livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems.

“This is a combination of people, planet, and profit, and I think it’s a tremendous opportunity,” Conathan said as a number of blue economy suggestions and policy recommendations were put forward for consideration under the Initiative.

According to Scorse, the first step may be to stop trying to make industrial fishing more sustainable, instead replacing factory farming with a mix of sustainable aquaculture and cultivated seafood “using genetic resources from the ocean to create identical products.”

“While I applaud the effort to make industrial fishing more sustainable … it is insufficient to the task. What we need is a new blue economy seafood sector that really focuses on food system suitability relative to ocean resources,” he offered. 

“I think with the proper R & D and investment, in 20 years we could have technologies that produce huge quantities of identical or cleaner seafood than what’s produced in the ocean … without the huge negative externalities that we all know too well.”

Other policy suggestions included protecting ocean resources through a focus on prevention of plastics pollution and alternate disposal for industrial fishing gear, harvesting seaweed for innovative uses like improved animal feed and using enhanced technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence to invest in a greater understanding of the Earth’s oceans and the carbon build-up already occurring there. 

Conathan also advocates for ocean cluster development, or a geographic concentration of interconnected companies and institutions that focus on blue economy work, to be a hub of innovation for reform. 

He suggested that these “partnerships, relationships, and triple bottom line solutions” might include workspace collaborations, seed funding organizations or even a global business development network that could increase ocean monitoring and “establish benchmarking statistical analysis to track contributions to the blue economy and the economy writ large.”

The Wilson Center and its Global Europe Program partner, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung USA’s joint “Transatlantic Blue Economy Initiative” hopes to use these and other suggestions to enable key decision-makers in the United States and the European Union to better define the blue economy and collaborate on policies moving forward. 

Kate can be reached at kate@thewellnews.com

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