In 2019, researchers found that over one-third of marine mammals and nearly one-third of sharks, other species closely related to sharks, and reef-forming corals were threatened with extinction. The study, conducted by an intergovernmental body of biological and ecological experts from 50 countries, outlined marine biodiversity’s current and dire circumstances while describing the ensuing consequences should man continue down the path of no return. Citing reasons such as fishing and land use change as some of the critical threats to marine life, scientists were quick to highlight climate change as the largest threat to marine life in the 21st century. Being responsible for absorbing up to 93% of excess heat from climate change, our oceans get warmer due to the excessive amount of greenhouse gases trapped within the ozone. Oceans absorbing that excess eventually warm up over time and see extreme acidification levels – harming precious marine coral reefs and threatening to push them past the brink of elimination.
Actions must be taken immediately to help get marine biodiversity back on track. One proposition that seeks to alter how humanity interacts with marine resources economically is the idea of the blue economy. Defined as a concept that encourages sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems, this radical approach encompasses multiple industries such as oil and gas, coastal manufacturing, shipping and port services, and renewable energy, to name a few.
In the context of ASEAN, advocating for a blue economy has to be a priority. With nine out of 10 ASEAN countries in close proximity to the sea, South East Asia suffers the most from its oceans. Researched and developed by established companies and start-ups, Blue technologies hold great promise. Further investments in the blue economy go a long way to advance the fight against climate change and ensure that oceans continue to function as a buffer for carbon emissions.
The Importance Of The Blue Economy
Economies worldwide were heavily hit in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with supply chain disruptions and inflation poised to set off another recession. In particular, the Asia Pacific region and ASEAN nations bore the brunt of the pandemic, with as many as 80 million people in developing Asia pushed into extreme poverty in 2020. Solutions towards economic growth and the improvement of livelihoods, the blue economy has been raised as a way to achieve financial progress while adopting the core values of sustainability and conservation.
The blue economy’s contribution to the GDP of Asian-Pacific countries varies widely, from as low as 1% to as high as 30%, peaking at 87% in some island nations. The truth is, on average, many of these countries rely on the ocean’s resources as their source of income. Therefore, adopting the blue economy, with the intent to protect these vital resources and ensure their longevity, is core to the economic progress of ASEAN nations.
How Does The Blue Economy Present Opportunities
Opportunities presented by the blue economy tackle economic issues while answering concerns many might have about marine conservation. In the case of the former, the blue economy provides food, jobs, and water while functioning as a source of economic growth. Via inclusive and environmentally sound ways of developing our oceans, the blue economy effectively balances sustainable development across economic, social, and environmental dimensions.
Several industries can benefit from adopting a blue economy approach to business – fisheries and agriculture, oil and gas, renewable energy, coastal and marine tourism, and the maritime sector. Increased overwatch and stringency call for additional stewardship, ultimately creating more jobs. Furthermore, as blue investments roll in, these industries that pivot towards the blue economy will see a share of investments directed towards their efforts to propagate sustainable and marine-conscious practices.
Current blue investment opportunities are already hitting mainstream adoption, such as the Sustainable Development Bond launched by the World Bank, which aims to raise 3 billion USD to support Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that address water, sanitation, and marine protection.
The Flourishing Blue Economy
Innovation is essential in ensuring a sustainable blue economy flourishes and becomes a mainstay practice. The current approach to how society approaches marine resources prioritises profits and forsakes long-term gains in favour of immediate value. For investors that approach projects with the same mindset, blue economy investments are best suited for those with a long-term perspective vested in contributing to a greener future and making a positive impact. Our seas and oceans are presently limited by greenhouse gases and cannot recover naturally to the fullest of their abilities. As such, the blue economy practices must take root to protect a precious resource for decades to come.