Blue economy

The ‘Blue Economy’ is an emerging concept which encourages better stewardship of our ocean or ‘blue’ resources. It underpins the thinking behind the Commonwealth Blue Charter, highlighting in particular the close linkages between the ocean, climate change, and the wellbeing of the people of the Commonwealth. At its heart, it reaffirms the values of the Commonwealth, including equity and public participation in marine and coastal decision-making.  It supports all of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG14 ‘life below water’, and recognises that this will require ambitious, co-ordinated actions to sustainably manage, protect and preserve our ocean now, for the sake of present and future generations.

The blue economy goes beyond viewing the ocean economy solely as a mechanism for economic growth. In the ‘business-as-usual’ model, large-scale industrial nations have seen the development of their ocean economies through the exploitation of maritime and marine resources – for example through shipping, commercial fishing, and the oil, gas, minerals and mining industries – often without a view to the effects their activities have on the future health or productivity of those same resources.

Small island states, relative to their land mass, have vast ocean resources at their disposal – presenting a huge opportunity for boosting their economic growth and to tackle unemployment, food security and poverty. They also have the most to lose from the degradation of marine resources.

Similar to the ‘Green Economy’, the blue economy model aims for improvement of human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. It provides for an inclusive model in which coastal states – which sometimes lack the capacity to manage their rich ocean resources – can begin to extend the benefit of those resources to all. Realising the full potential of the blue economy means inclusion and participation of all affected social groups and sectors.

The blue economy is not just about market opportunities; it also provides for the protection and development of more intangible ‘blue’ resources such as traditional ways of life, carbon sequestration, and coastal resilience to help vulnerable states mitigate the often devastating effects of climate change.

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland: “The Blue Charter will help countries develop an integrated approach to the building of the blue economy, one which considers the value of often overlooked sectors such as artisanal fishing as well as the role of women and young people.”

Fast facts
  • The worldwide ocean economy is valued at around valued at around US$1.5 trillion per year.
  • Eighty per-cent of global trade by volume is carried by sea.
  • 350 million jobs world-wide are linked to fisheries.
  • By 2025 it is estimated that 34% of crude oil production will come from offshore fields.
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector and provides about 50% of fish for human consumption.
More information
  • Commonwealth urges policy changes to unleash blue economy
  • What is the Blue Economy?
  • The potential of the blue economy
  • Financing the blue economy for sustainable development 
  • Blue Economy Concept Paper 
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