Blue economy to help states deliver on SDGs says marine scientist


Image/Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The key sectors of the Blue Economy include:

  • Aquaculture or the raising of water animals like fish for food or the growing of plants in water for food
  • Maritime transport or the transportation by water of people or goods
  • Maritime biotechnology refers to the broad area of biology involving living systems and organisms to develop or make products
  • Bioprospecting is the process of discovery and commercialization of new products based on biological resources
  • Fishing: the job or sport of catching fish
  • Maritime and coastal tourism which involves activities like cruise tourism, water sports and beach tourism
  • Offshore oil and gas, offshore wind power and shipbuilding and ship repair
  • Desalination or the process of removing salt from water
  • Carbon sequestrationor the process of capturing waste carbondioxide through the carbon trading initiative
  • Coastal protection or the conservation of coastal resources
  • Waste disposal or activities and actions required to manage waste from its inception to its final disposal
  • Existence of biodiversityor measuring of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem levels

Source: Centre for the Blue Economy


A blue economy is one that will help countries deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted at the United Nations in 2015 and are due in 2030 a marine scientist, Dr David Obura, has said.

In his article published on 29 April 2020 in the journal Marine Policy, Dr Obura states that he uses the example of a populated coral reef landscape to mention all the 17 goals in less than 150 words in an ‘elevator pitch’.

“The model can also be used to clarify what a ‘blue economy’ is, as this concept grows in importance worldwide,” he notes.

Dr Obura makes a strong case that a blue economy is one that delivers the SDGs and it should not only sustain ocean life, but also assure economic prosperity and social goals in harmony with one another.

Dr David Obura from CORDIO East Africa. PHOTO/COURTESY

According to the Centre for the Blue Economy a US based academic institution: the “Blue Economy” comprises the economic activities that create sustainable wealth from the world’s oceans and coasts.

While according to the World Bank, the blue economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems.

Dr Obura says for the model to work, one has to agree with almost all countries on the planet, to the principle vision – of balancing environment, economy and societal goals together.

“Second, starting with one’s preferred point of view, in this case the ocean, build a story about its connections with the other 16 goals,” he adds.


The article uses examples to illustrate this, such as of a fishery supporting jobs and income, and then health, education and gender benefits, and beyond.

“The fact is that after 5 years of the SDGs, we are falling short on delivery of the goals with only 10 years left. It’s not just about the goals themselves, but also all the major global commitments for which Agenda 2030 acts as an umbrella,” he explains further.

Dr Obura says for example, the next 10 years are the world’s only chance to stay within a safe climate future defined by the Paris Agreement, which sets the ambition for SDG 13 on climate.

“And new biodiversity goals are being set for 2021-2030, which will update SDGs 14 and 15, of life in the oceans and on land,” he observes.

The tourists disembarking from the MS Nautica cruise ship at Mombasa port. Cruise tourism is a key element of the Blue Economy. PHOTO/KPA

He adds that the same could be elaborated for economic and social goals, such as on a just and equitable economy, or in redesigning local or national health systems to minimize future COVID-19 threats.

“This approach views the SDGs as a consistent framework within which all actors can develop narratives from their own perspectives, build their own storylines, and through this develop action and business plans that do their part to achieve the SDGs,” he notes.

Dr Obura emphasizes that since they start the SDGs with a consistent frame, the results of the actions can then be added up – to the level of a community, a city, a country, or even a group of countries within a region.

He adds that a further challenge for implementing the SDGs has been ways to measure success relevant at all scales from local to global.

“This model provides a consistent framework within which locally relevant variables may be used and aggregated up to national and international levels for overall reporting on the goals,” he explains.

Dr Obura says the SDGs express a global vision for a just, prosperous and sustainable world, but a significant challenge has been the lack of clear pathways for the goals to be expressed in meaningful ways at local levels, to stimulate change from the bottom-up.

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