By Ayesh Ranawaka(Advisor to State Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, Vice President/Director of National Fisheries Federation)
The concept of ‘Blue Economy’ saw its inception in 2010 as a brainchild of Gunter Pauli who sought to establish 100 million job opportunities through 100 innovations in ten years.
Initially the project did not centre itself on the Great Oceans but focused on the small target of being an eco-friendly job creation mechanism. Subsequently, the initiative was defined alongside oceanic activities internationally by World Wildlife Fund. Following the United Nations Environmental Programme, the concept of a Blue Economy’ bifurcated from ‘Green economy,’ and developed into the fourteenth UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This is the first opportunity for Sri Lankans to taste the resourcefulness of this concept to address and eradicate poverty.
Gunter Pauli once said that the key in life is to be able to answer the question ‘How much is enough?’ and that modern society has a desire to accumulate stuff and do nothing with it.
‘Rio + 20 – the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), focused on two key themes:
1.Further development and refinement of institutional framework for sustainable development.
2.Advancement of the ‘Green Economy’ concept
However, many coastal countries questioned how the concept of a Green Economy can be applicable to them, and strong points were discussed as to why a ‘Blue Economy’ concept should be addressed more prominently. The ‘Blue Economy’ approach has since then gained prominence because of its broad relevance to Oceans. Furthermore, humanity’s dealings with the high seas have represented our quest for sustainable development. Thus, coastal and island countries, specifically developing countries such as ours, wish to remain at the forefront of a ‘Blue Economy.’ Advanced technologies and the fast rising prices of commodities are opening up an entire dimension of opportunity for ocean exploitation for sustainable development.
It was only after UN’s SDG were established in 2016 that the ‘Blue Economy’ really took off. As per UN SDG 14, oceans serve as the largest source of protein, with more than 3 billion people depending on oceans as their primary source of protein and over 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihood (UN SDG 14, 2016).
Sri Lanka learnt the importance of ‘Blue Economy’ after the Australian High Commission introduced it in 2016 March, through the fisheries trade. We thus, immediately began to formulate the concept, adopting it through fisheries. However, one thing we must further realize is that ‘Blue Economy’ needs to be adopted and implemented parallel to the Green Economy. Today, as we see it, Green Economy has become a more expensive process than it need be. People who live on minimum wage are unable to afford this. For example, organic products, despite the various health benefits granted, are too expensive for many to afford.
65 million years ago, the Earth was destroyed by an asteroid. Today, humans have become that asteroid. The environment, specifically land, is in dire straits. However, we still have the ocean left untouched to an extent. Thus, ‘Blue Economy’ should be carefully handled, in a sustainable manner. It has to be environment friendly, and sustainable as well as providing new job opportunities and innovations.
Centre for Ocean Resources
It is mandatory to place this subject under the purview of the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development for the time being, in order to prevent unnecessary contradictions with other stakeholders and fishing communities. Thus, it is time we realized that ‘Blue Economy’ is a serious matter that needs serious attention. Government organization needs to be involved when matters with regard to it are taking up for consideration. We need to understand the importance of Sri Lanka’s location and work accordingly. In order to do so, a National Centre for Ocean Resources needs to be established here in Sri Lanka. There are many components under the ‘Blue Economy,’ such as Fisheries and Nutrient Cycling, Marine Tourism, Sea Transportation, Ocean Energy, Co2 Capture and storage, Minerals and Waste Management. All of these components aim to explore ocean resources.
However, Sri Lanka, despite the fact that it is an island, has yet to establish a genuine Centre for ocean resources.Thus, it is about time to establish such a Centre. In addition to giving advice on policy development, it will focus on the ocean and its resources, which is necessary especially seeing as Sri Lanka is an island. Once it is established, the key player should be the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. The main reason for this proposition is that it is fisheries that mostly engaged in ocean-based activities at present. There are many fishermen on our island and we must go forward very methodically, in a systematic manner to discuss everything related to the subject at this Centre. As mentioned earlier, Sri Lanka is situated at a strategically important place in terms of location, and it is time we made use of this. Thus, this National Centre will be established under one roof – the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. The Centre will handle a proper system for everything regarding the ocean, in order to link all subjects together. That should be the prime duty of the Centre.
The word privatization has become a bad word in Sri Lankan vocabulary due to some misunderstandings of actual situations.
Therefore, I strongly feel that we should have a very methodical action plan to implement these proposals for the benefit of the country.
Most of the subjects mentioned above, which comes under the concept of ‘Blue Economy’ can be categorized as indicated below:
1.Extraction of non-living resources
2.Harvesting of living resources
3.Goods and passenger transport
4.Maritime security and marine environ ment protection
The major goals of Blue Economy include sustainable exploitation of Ocean Resources, job innovation and technology. However, we also need to look into various goals creating international links and spreading knowledge.
‘Think Tank‘ through Blue Economy
The concept of Blue Economy depends on the information and advice from those who live among these resources – the fishermen and other residents of coastal areas. Thus, the necessity of a Think Tank is compulsory; it will be setup in order to optimize these resources, and the concept will be introduced under ‘Project Blue.’ This Think Tank will consist of advocates such as environmentalists, engineers, economists, legal and financial experts, coastal engineers, and navigational and naval architects, in addition to representatives from the coastal areas such as fishermen.As mentioned above, there will be both voluntary experts as well as those who will be on a payroll for their expertise. Possible contribution of the Fisheries sector to the Blue Economy is huge and Sri Lanka being an island in the Indian Ocean is suitably located for adopting the concept of a Blue Economy. While we will be running this Think Tank forum under the concept of ‘Blue Economy,’ marine tourism and fisheries are the two main sectors the Ministry of Fisheries deals with. However, there are several other sectors that belong to other Ministries that deal with oceanic resources. ‘Project Blue’ will be consulting such institutions during this venture. On the other hand, the Think Tank forum will focus on the following three aspects in a broader sense – To collect ideas, solutions and other information that will assist in using our territorial waters, an Exclusive Economic Zone, the vast area of marine habitat surrounding our island for sustainable economic development.Through activities such as sustainable fishing, renewable energy production, marine tourism, and ‘green’ shipping, Project Blue aims to increase the rates of employment and good sanitation while decreasing poverty, malnutrition and pollution. The information collected during the course of this endeavour will be useful in all future ventures the ministry will tackle. Project Blue will be collecting a lot of information which will and can be used to tackle future issues and endeavours.
The information itself will be collected from everyone including those at the grassroots levels, like fishermen and the fishing community to top notch environmentalists, ecologists, sociologists and engineers. Seeing as information is a powerful tool in tackling problems, Project Blue believes that issues that could come up later into the endeavour can also be tackled rather than ignored.It aims to increase marine tourism which goes hand in hand with fisheries and the Ministry and give a new face to the fisheries trade by presenting new business models to society for future funding, grants, loans etc. Therefore, the core objective of Project Blue is to investigate the variety of marine resources that can be used in the sustainable development of the country.As a country that has invested so much in its past and historic legacies, we have failed to go forward adhering to the changing dynamics of the world. These conventional and traditional ideologies are not bad; yet it is high time countrymen, state officials and politicians realised the timely need to find something new. This is mainly due to the opportunities the country will thus be open to in the form of new economic policies that would seek to develop the country. In such a background, the realisation of a Blue Economy and its application in the country in order to create a transition to an eco- friendly, social and economy-friendly movement is based around the country’s fresh and sea water resources. This realisation and the ultimate application of such an initiative will be a struggle conquered and it’s my honour to the state for inclusion of ‘Blue Economy’ through the budget 2018.