Nereus program manager/research associate Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor (UBC) is lead author with director (science) William Cheung (UBC), Muhammed Oyinlola (UBC), Gerald Singh (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Wilf Swartz (Dalhousie University) and director (policy) Yoshitaka Ota (University of Washington) on a new publication in the journal Marine Policy that focuses on the Blue Economy, or ‘marine industrial revolution’. They argue that, for the Blue Economy to be truly effective in contributing to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), social benefits and equity must be given at least the same amount of attention as environmental and economic concerns. The authors review what an equity-focused Blue Economy would mean for different marine sectors (e.g., bioprospecting, blue carbon, blue energy, ecotourism, fisheries and mariculture, etc.), while showing how existing guidelines can help promote more socially-equitable policies. They argue the need for addressing social concerns to achieve sustainability and economic growth and that focusing on social equity will facilitate “bridging the common divides between economic and environmental goals in development planning.” In conclusion, the authors write that with development often being shaped by both the private sector’s and funding agencies’ objectives that primarily focus on economic growth, it’s important that the Blue Economy specifically address social equity by “including human rights, access to resources, and ensuring an equitable share of benefits and costs”, lest those needs go by the wayside. You can read the full abstract below.

Abstract: The term ‘Blue Economy’ is increasingly used in various marine sectors and development frameworks. For it to be a truly useful approach, however, we argue that social benefits and equity must be explicitly prioritized alongside environmental and economic concerns. This integration of social dimensions within the Blue Economy is required to ensure that marine economic sectors contribute to achieving sustainable development goals. We review what an equity-focused ‘Blue Economy’ might mean for some established and emergent marine sectors and note existing guidelines that may be used for incorporating these aspects into planning. Moving towards a Blue Economy does not only imply developing emerging sectors in undeveloped areas; larger challenges will be found in transforming industries that already have significant economic and livelihood contributions despite concurrent social and environmental concerns. A ‘marine industrial revolution’—as the Blue Economy has sometimes been understood—cannot achieve sustainable development and well-being if it does not avoid the widespread negative social and ecological impacts of historical development pathways. A concerted effort is therefore necessary to design and implement inclusive and equitable policies as an integral part of a Blue Economy that is transformative and not only expansive.


Cisneros-Montemayor, A.M., Moreno-Báez, M., Voyer, M., Allison, E.H., Cheung, W.W.L., Hessing-Lewis, M., Oyinlola, M.A., Singh, G.G., Swartz, W. and Ota, Y. (2019). Social equity and benefits as the nexus of a transformative Blue Economy: A sectoral review of implications. Marine Policy, 109: 103702.

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