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The “Blue Economy” – Belize’s new direction in sustainable development

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Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2020. 11:51 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: “The blue economy, of course, is all exciting. It entails everything that is in the marine reserve. Everything that pertains to fisheries – fisheries is just

part of it. We’re talking about harnessing solar energy. We’re talking about putting it together, and we’re taking it to another level to find that equilibrium between protecting our environment, but at the same time, growing our economy, and growing sustainably as well.” – Hon. Andre Perez, Minister of the Blue Economy & Civil Aviation, 7News, Mon. Nov. 16, 2020

Belize’s long love affair with the sea has provided many benefits. The Barrier Reef system hugging our coastline like a second skin has been a lifesaver, blunting the effects of hurricanes and storms; in its coral features spawn fish and other crustaceans for culinary and other delicacies. Along with mainland attractions, the sea is one of two reasons so many tourists flock to the Jewel.

But we have admittedly not been doing a very good job of preserving and maintaining this natural wonder, and as a result, the Reef was for a long-time rated vulnerable by the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and in some respects continues to be. The most recent Reef Report Card scores Belize 2.8 out of 5 on reef indicators – better than our neighbors, but not good enough.

In the backdrop of all of that, the appointment of a Minister of the “Blue Economy” signals a significant policy change. But blue in this case does not mean party colour, but ocean colour, and much more than that.

The Ocean Foundation has compiled years of research on the idea of the “blue economy,” which as it turns out isn’t necessarily new at all. The earliest empires, it points out, owed their survival to exploitation of natural resources and trade in consumer goods and, more distastefully, humans on the ocean.

Put simply, making the economy blue means encouraging economic activity that is actively good for the ocean, tying together socioeconomic development with environmental protection and regeneration.

The World Wildlife Fund, in its Principles for a Sustainable Blue Economy, argues that the sustainable Blue Economy should be governed by public and private processes that are inclusive, well-informed, adaptive, accountable, transparent, holistic, and proactive. To accomplish these goals, public and private actors must set measurable goals, assess and communicate their performance, provide adequate rules and incentives, effectively govern the use of marine space, develop standards, understand marine pollution usually originates on land, and actively cooperate to promote change.

Initiatives all across the Caribbean have begun transitioning toward inclusive, cross-sectoral and sustainable production including both industry planning and governance, for example in Grenada, the Bahamas, and Barbados. 

The Caribbean Development Bank hosted a seminar at their 2018 Annual Meeting on “Financing the Blue Economy – A Caribbean Development Opportunity.” The seminar discussed both internal and international mechanisms used to fund industry, improve the system for blue economy initiatives, and improve investment opportunities within the Blue Economy.

Barbados’s Blue Economy Framework is made up of three pillars: transportation and logistics, housing and hospitality, and health and nutrition. Their goal is to preserve the environment, become 100% in renewable energy, ban plastics and improve marine management policies.

Grenada’s economy was devastated by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and subsequently felt the effects of the Financial Crisis leading to a 40% unemployment rate. This presented an opportunity to develop Blue Growth for economic renewal. Identifying nine clusters of activity the process was funded by the World Bank with the goal for St. George to become the first climate-smart capital city. 

For much more, see https://oceanfdn.org/blue-economy/?fbclid=IwAR2lDWkP9YxDGSm5BCMoO9ea_FYcqpsvzds3_f0SpW5Hmy6mZ6rPQjvCAWg

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