Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
October 2020

The Blue Economy as a Global Initiative

The Caribbean Blue Economy Cover

Within the last five years, the concept of the Blue Economy has entered into widespread use around the world (Colgan, 2017). The list of countries whose governments have promoted this concept in various forms as a strategy for economic development has grown long, and examples include: Australia, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia and a number of small island developing states such as Grenada and Mauritius (European Commission, 2012; Surís-Regueiro et al., 2013; Salim, 2014; Sunoto, 2014; Zhao et al., 2014; Conathan and Moore, 2015; ANI, 2017; Cervigni and Scandizzo, 2017; Voyer et al., 2017). Across these countries the concept has been defined and applied very differently (Voyer et al., 2018; Colgan 2017), and as a result has been characterised at times as a “buzzword” that has general agreement in the abstract but not in practice (Bueger, 2015; Voyer et al., 2017). 

In some cases, the Blue Economy concept has been promoted as a response to a vision of rapidly increasing human activity in the ocean, labelled an “economic frontier” for an expanding population searching for new sources of growth, equipped with emerging technologies that make the global ocean and its resources more accessible (Jouffray et al., 2020; Economist Intelligence Unit, 2015). To some extent, the concept has evolved from the earlier idea of an “ocean economy,” which aimed to link a diverse set of economic activities and industries under one label, because they all in some way shared the ocean as a physical context (OECD, 2016). For this reason, the concept of the ocean economy first needs some description, and to be distinguished from the concept of a Blue Economy.