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Blue Economy

What is the Blue Economy (BE)?

There is no “official” definition of the Blue Economy. In the Mediterranean framework, two references can be used; they are fully consistent.

According to the Declaration of 17th November 2015, “the blue economy […] may include, inter alia, the set of human activities depending on the sea and/or underpinned by land-sea interactions in the context of sustainable development, and notably including industrial and service sectors such as aquaculture, fisheries, blue biotechnologies, coastal and maritime tourism, shipping, ship-building/repair, ports, ocean energy and marine renewable energy, including offshore wind, which are among the main traditional and emerging economic maritime sectors in the Mediterranean Sea basin”.

According to the EC Communication (2012), the individual sectors of the blue economy include coastal tourism, offshore oil and gas, deep sea and short sea shipping, yachting and marinas, passenger ferry services, cruise tourism, fisheries, inland waterway transport, coastal protection, offshore wind, monitoring and surveillance, blue biotechnology, desalination, aggregates mining, marine aquatic products, marine mineral mining, ocean renewable energies. These sectors “are interdependent. They rely on common skills and shared infrastructure such as ports and electricity distribution networks. They depend on others using the sea sustainably”.

The Blue Economy is a framework for sustainable development of maritime activities. It is consistent with the framework of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development adopted by the UNEP/MAP.

Blue Economy primarily focuses on the creation of jobs and of added value in maritime and coastal activities. Sustainability is another priority: any activity must control its impacts on the marine and coastal environment, and make sound use of natural resources, be they renewable or not.

The potential of Blue economy depends on a large number of factors, such as policy context, (jurisdiction, regulatory framework etc.) defined in the framework of integrated maritime policies at various scales and levels, or environmental context. It also depends of the potential of marine and coastal resources (biological resources, mineral resources, energy resources) and of the available maritime and coastal space (e.g. coastline, EEZ…).

Through various studies, the EU has developed an approach for assessing the potential of Blue Economy. This approach can be implemented at all scales: local, sub-national, national, or at sub-basin (e.g. Western Mediterranean) and basin (e.g. Mediterranean) scale.

Following this approach, maritime activities perform various functions:

  • maritime transport and shipbuilding,
  • food, nutrition, heath and ecosystem services,
  • energy and raw materials,
  • leisure, working and living,
  • coastal protection,
  • monitoring and surveillance.

The jobs and the added value are spread over the value chain for each activity, including beyond the core activity via backward and forward links, where large parts of the economic activities take place. For instance, jobs and added value in short sea shipping can be found in the backward part of the value chain (design, research and development, shipbuilding and marine equipment manufacturing), in the core activity (operation of ships: management, crew, insurance, O&M…), in cargo handling (port and infrastructures and services) and in the hinterland transport services, out of the maritime activity but with strong dependences.

The potential of maritime activities depends, among other factors, on their maturity; the potential is higher in activities at pre-development stage or growth stage than in fully mature and of course than in declining activities.

The assessment of sustainability includes the assessment of potential impacts regarding the Good Environment Status (GES) as defined through the set of descriptors established in the EU by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which can be considered the environmental pillar of the EU Integrated Maritime Policy.

Finally, synergies (positive or negative) should be taken into account. Maritime activities are not independent: they share the same environment (with potentially cumulative impacts), they may target the same natural resources (with potential competition), share the same infrastructure (competition/cooperation), build on shared knowledge, use the same vessels (e.g. ocean exploration…) and sometimes the same skills (mariners).