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What is the Blue Growth strategy and how is it developed? We delve into the role of 'blue growth' in the global economy.

What is Blue Growth? 

‘Blue growth’ is the universally recognised term to refer to the long-term strategy adopted globally to promote the sustainable growth of maritime sectors within the world economy, preventing the degradation and pollution of the marine ecosystem. 

In fact, the ocean provides essential goods (first and foremost, the oxygen we breathe), invaluable ecosystem services, energy, food, jobs, and transport for millions of people, as well as being the largest contributor to regulating the global climate system and absorbing greenhouse gases,  representing our best ally against climate change

Photo via Unsplash

When was it born? 

The term ‘Blue Growth’ was first introduced in 2012 at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, also known as Rio 2012 or Rio+20. On this occasion,  in parallel to the concept of ‘Green Growth’, which refers to the sustainability of the earth’s ecosystems, the term ‘Blue Growth’ began to make its way, thanks to the push by a group of small islands, the so-called SIDS (Small Island Developing States). For these countries, in fact, the consequences of climate change on the marine ecosystem were, even at that time, much more worrying than for other states, due to rising sea levels that threaten the existence of islands and the scarcity of resources available to mitigate the effects of climate change, also due to pollution,  mainly caused by large industrialized countries. 

For developing countries, in fact, the Blue Economy strategy, a branch of the green economy dedicated to the creation of a sustainable economic system through technological innovation,  offers the possibility of alleviating the most important obstacle to sustainable growth, namely the scarcity of resources.

SDG14 – Life Below Water

This topic has also been included in the UN’s 2030 Agenda, which defines 17 Sustainable  Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, SDG No. 14, “Life below water”, which aims at the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas, and its resources, places great emphasis on reducing pollution of the seas, protecting marine and coastal ecosystems, minimising the impacts of ocean acidification, regulating fishing activities, conserving coastal and marine areas and increasing scientific knowledge on these issues, fitting exactly into the development perspective of Blue Growth. 

How is it developing? 

In the European Union alone, the Blue Economy strategy enabled the direct employment of  almost 4.45 million people in 2019 and generated some 667.2 billion euros in earnings,  representing a fundamental tool for the economic and social well-being. 

The Blue Growth strategy has three components

  1. Specific integrated maritime policy measures, in relation to oceanographic knowledge, to improve access to information on the seas and maritime spatial planning, to ensure effective and sustainable management of activities at sea and integrated maritime surveillance, and to enable authorities to have a clearer picture of what is happening at sea; 
  2. Sea-basin strategies, to promote sustainable growth, based on climatic, oceanographic,  economic, cultural and social factors; 
  3. Targeted approach to sea-related activities, such as aquaculture, coastal tourism, marine  biotechnology, ocean energy and seabed mining. 

Photo by Sebastian Pena Lambarri via Unsplash

Blue Growth in the Mediterranean Sea 

An example of the application of the Blue Growth strategy is the MISTRAL project (Mediterranean  Innovation STRAtegy for the transnational activity of clusters and networks of the Blue Growth),  organised by the European Union and published in 2018. It is a Mediterranean Sea maritime sustainability project, whose aim is to promote and improve transnational maritime ecosystems with the collaboration of RTOs (Research and Technology Organisations), Public Institutions, and Clusters from the Mediterranean area, which include Italy, Spain, Croatia, France, Malta, Cyprus,  Slovenia, and Greece.

There are four main objectives of the project: 

  1. To limit the fragmentation of regional actions and regulations in the maritime sector 
  2. To strengthen transnational cooperation by creating critically informed personnel to achieve correct results in research and development actions 
  3. Supporting the creation of a favourable environment for implementing the vision and governance of Blue Growth 
  4. Building a competitive, sustainable, and innovative maritime economy, supported by extra-territorial values, providing high-quality employment opportunities. 
Aree Marine Protette_Worldrise

Photo by Rachel Claire via Pexels

The areas of action in which this project takes shape concern: 

  • Renewable energy, linked to the important natural resources we have within the marine ecosystems for energy production, such as wind, wave power, temperature differences, and the salinity level of the sea; 
  • Fisheries, considering projects to valorise waste from fishing activities and strategies to develop  a distribution system with less polluting impact; and aquaculture, promoting the reproduction of aquatic organisms such as mollusks and crustaceans in protected and human-controlled areas in the sea; 
  • Maritime surveillance, for better knowledge of the condition of the vast marine ecosystem through the collaboration of national authorities, making the exchange of information more effective and less costly; 
  • Biotechnology, for an in-depth study of the inhabitants of the sea and how they have changed their biological conformation in response to the changing climate; 
  • Coastal and maritime tourism, responsible in Europe alone for the employment of 2.35 million people, the Mediterranean being the preferred destination for 63% of the European population. Ensuring healthy marine habitats and cleaner waters is key to promoting sustainable growth of the marine ecosystem in economic terms. 
Final Considerations 

The Blue Growth strategy, as a whole, proposes a more sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship between the marine ecosystem and human activities, following common guidelines that on the one hand ensure the existence and sustainable growth of the oceans, and on the other regulate human economic activities while respecting this fragile ecosystem. The benefits and long-term possibilities of this common purpose are countless. 

Securing a more sustainable future for our oceans is crucial to ensuring an equally positive one for future generations: as the 1987 Brundtland Report states in its publication ‘Our Common Future’,  sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

Blue Planet via

Blue Planet via

Author: Marta Massarini

Marta attends the university faculty of Linguistic and Cultural Mediation Sciences, has always been interested in issues of environmental sustainability, and is a great fan of nautical sports. If she was a marine animal, she would certainly be a Humpback Whale, a great traveler and communicator, known for her aerial evolutions among the sea waves.

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