The blue economy: your call to preserve marine ecosystems
your guide to sustainability: the basics
24 october '22
Reading time: 7 minutes
All ecosystems have their own balance, including the marine world. The oceans are massively challenged by different threats, day by day. The blue economy opens a path for us to help preserve and restore them, but how can we concretely act?
Words by Francesca Stabile & Bilgesu Altunkan
Picture by Felixoceanart
Have you ever wondered why our relationship with water is so symbiotic? After all, we all come from water, and we surely have an intrinsic bond with it. Water plays a vital role in the global climate and temperature balance. About 80% of Earth consists of seas and oceans, which undoubtedly affects everything that surrounds us. And when it’s us, humans, negatively impacting waters, the effects on the globe are huge.
The term blue economy is increasingly becoming popular in our vocabulary, but maybe not enough. However, it’s of crucial importance, as it defines the practices of sustainable management of oceans and coastal resources.
Picture by Felixoceanart
What is the blue economy?
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
ecosystem." Its scope of interpretation varies among organizations, however the term is generally used in international development content when describing a sustainable development approach to coastal resources. This can include a wide range of economic sectors, including conventional fisheries, aquaculture, maritime transport, marine tourism, coastal renewable energy and many other more.
The blue economy therefore discusses improvements of the overall management of waters, economic development, but also of the preservation and restoration of the marine ecosystems at risk due to different huge threats, including uncontrolled fishing, climate change, oil pollution, and plastic pollution.
Picture by Felixoceanart
The greatest challenges
Did you know that thousands of tons of plastic are thrown into the world and the oceans every second? According to the Ocean Conservancy, around 27,000 tonnes of macro-plastics enter European seas every year. At the same time, 11 million metric tons are thrown on all marine ecosystems on Earth on top of all the already circulating 200 million metric tons. Plastic waste mainly regards single-use plastics, lost or discarded fishing gear, and waste discharged from ships and highly impacts marine biodiversity and safety.
According to World Wildlife, fishing is one of the most significant drivers of declines in ocean wildlife populations. Overfishing is a widespread practice: it happens when vessels catch fish faster than stocks can replenish. The number of overfished stocks globally has tripled in half a century. Today, one-third of the world's assessed fisheries are pushed beyond their biological limits, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Overfishing is closely tied to capturing unwanted sea life while fishing for a different species. This severe marine threat causes the needless loss of billions of fish and hundreds of thousands of sea turtles and cetaceans.
3. Oil spill
Oil spills are a major disaster for marine ecosystems and they are more common than you might think. Thousands of oil spills happen each year just in the US. Consequences are huge. On one side, animals and all other living organisms in waters are subjected to fouling - physical harm that prevents, for example, birds to fly and sea otters to insulate themselves properly. On the other side, oil releases a series of toxic chemicals that cause health problems and death to all living organisms around.
4. Marine biodiversity decline
Linked to the above threats, marine biodiversity, which allows nature in our ocean to be productive, resilient, and adaptable, is at huge risk. Marine biodiversity is significant for all living organisms on Earth as everyone relies on the ocean for the oxygen we breathe, the food we eat, and the climate we live in. According to NRDC, “over one-third of marine mammals and nearly one-third of sharks, shark relatives, and reef-forming corals are threatened with extinction” due to several causes, including climate change, rising temperatures, and overfishing practices.
Picture by Belle Co
How does the blue economy help?
The blue economy has the power to acquire better management of marine ecosystems, push lower emissions, and be a player in fighting climate change. Emerging marine sustainable practices have grown during the last few years; for example, oceans are becoming increasingly popular for renewable energy. But let’s take a closer look at solid examples.
1. Offshore wind energy
Offshore wind farms are part of the blue economy as they contribute to generating clean energy in a more efficient way than land wind farms. Through this innovation, more electricity per installed capacity is produced due to higher wind speeds, compared to land, contributing to make clean energy more appealing.
Aquaculture is the cultivation of aquatic organisms for food or other purposes in the ocean and sea waters. Its great advantages include: improvement of food security and nutrition by controlling the amount of food produced; reduction in the dependency on commercial fishing practices; saving endangered species by ensuring controlled fishing; offering wealth and job opportunities to local communities.
3. Blue biotechnology
Blue technologies are very useful for environmental and waste management. Organisms like microalgae, bacteria and fungi, can absorb harmful toxins and chemicals in sea waters, such as oil spills, and therefore studied to produce innovations that can help restore marine ecosystems.
4. Wave and tidal energy
Wave energy is an innovative type of unlimited and renewable energy obtained from the repulsive movement of waves formed in the seas and oceans. In this process, it’s the pressure created by the winds and currents to create energy, which is amplified also by tides. This kind of energy source is becoming more and more popular across the world.
5. Overfishing regulations
Poor and ineffective management of industrial fishing plays a significant role in marine ecosystems. At least 130 fish stocks—worth billions of dollars annually—are managed internationally, but few cohesive rules are in place to ensure their sustainability. The Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is an example of regulation that requires annual catch limits and accountability measures in the USA to end and prevent overfishing.
6. Sustainable tourism
Sustainable tourism plays an important role in the preservation of our coastlines and seas. Choosing sustainable destinations means going where regulations are applied to protect the environment, and therefore not contaminating places that lack them and are at risk in terms of endangered animals and ecosystems. Get inspired by organizations that promote sustainable tourism, such as Green Destinations.
Picture by Felixoceanart
Besides regulations or cutting-edge technologies, we also need to commit as individuals. Here are some simple but valuable suggestions if you are thinking about how we can individually support and protect the marine ecosystem.
1. Don’t use plastic anymore!
By avoiding single-use plastics, you can positively impact the health of our marine ecosystems. Where to start? You can carry reusable utensils, straws, and containers with you on the go; rock a reusable tote bag and say no to plastic bags; bring your containers for fresh food purchases; use natural cleaning products in glass bottles. These are just a few pieces of advice. To begin with, read our article on how to quickly turn plastic-free!
2. Take part in educational events
Educating yourself on the issue is very important to let you understand what you can do as a consumer. Explore what initiatives your city is doing to preserve the environment and marine ecosystems, and check the latest documentaries released.
3. Participate in beach clean-ups
Do you live by the sea? Take part in your local beach clean-ups! These initiatives are significant in restoring the environment, with just a couple of hours of your time you can contribute to picking up litter that is damaging your local beach and all animals living there. Trust us, it’s very satisfying and you’ll connect with many people driven by the same values!
4. Sign petitions to ban poor regulations
Sometimes, the people's voice is the most powerful instrument to get the attention of the highest stakeholders, such as politicians and institutional organizations. Check the most recent petitions that are fighting against poor regulations, especially when talking about overfishing. This year a considerable petition to stop the shark fin trade reached the EU Parliament thanks to millions of citizens who signed it!
5. Connect with NGOs
By volunteering for organizations dedicated to marine ecosystems preservation, you can closely work with animals in need, help protect reefs, and restore ecosystems with your hands. You can also opt to donate: after all, isn't it better to give up a drink to save a turtle?
6. Spread awareness, share this article!
Spreading awareness is beneficial for all of us. Teach your friends and family what is happening in our marine ecosystems and what they can do to preserve them. Share this article with them and get more people to change their habits.