Blue Economy in a Nutshell
By Cdre Sunday Daniel Atakpa

Earth's land-based resources are fast depleting on account of rising global population and the tragedy of the commons phenomenon. The tragedy of the commons embodies the economic-cum-ecological philosophy in which shared natural resources are exploited and overexploited without due regard to resource finiteness, particularly in an unregulated environment. It imperils, deliberately or unintentionally, future generations' chances to profit from the same resources, thereby making it the predominant factor inimical to sustainability. Land-based resources have borne the brunt of this plundering over the years because man, by nature, is terrestrial and therefore a subjugator of the terra firma as a global common. This negative impact becomes significantly evident when viewed against rising global population which hit the 7 billionth mark on 31 October 2011 and estimated to peak between 9 and10 billion by 2050.

To meet the resource needs of the rising global population amidst earth’s dwindling land-based resources, the ocean, for now, (the author believes the outer space would be the next) has been singled out as the generation-next resource base. The ocean is targeted because of its resource endowment and capabilities. It is capable of providing a means of livelihood for over 3 billion people, generating over US$ 2.4 trillion per annum, as well as creating over 3 billion jobs and employment amongst others. Of these global estimates, Nigeria’s maritime economy alone is believed to have the capacity for creating and generating over 40 million jobs and N7 trillion annually. However, these enormous ocean potentials expose it to the likelihood of suffering the same tragedy that characterized land-based resource extraction. Thus, to regulate, with the intent of preventing the likely carry-over of the tragedy of the commons from land to the oceans, the blue economy was conceived as a global response to the sustainable exploitation of ocean resources.

Prof Gunter Pauli first used the term blue economy in 2010 as a wealth creation strategy through nature-inspired derivatives on the basis of environmental correctness. Pauli’s focus, at best, was on land-based resources. The term, however, evolved into its current conception as a purely ocean-based and ocean-related concept through the Rio+20 declaration of 2012. The Small Island Developing States (SIDS) at the Rio+20 conference had advocated for the sustainable use of their ocean resources against the backdrop of their peculiar challenges of limited land resources, environmental/ecological vulnerabilities through natural disasters as well geographic remoteness and isolation which does not offer them as much economic footprint as mainland nations. Their significant numerical strength of 52 out of 194 United Nations member states provided them with the requisite negotiating leverage. Thus, the blue economy first gained traction with SIDS and later with mainland coastal states.

At the core of the global blue economy concept is the concurrent pursuit of economic growth from the oceans, while at the same time maintaining, at all times, healthy oceans to service succeeding generations. Before the advent of the blue economy, national socioeconomic development had always been at the expense of environment well-being. Therefore, the blue economy seeks to de-couple socioeconomic development from environmental degradation for enhanced national development. The blue in the concept derives from the characteristic blue colour of the ocean. Although the sky possesses similar blue colour, it however does not serve as a resource medium, at least for the moment.

The economics of a blue economy includes, besides traditional fishing and shipping, innovative ocean exploitation for marine biotechnology, deep sea mining, maritime tourism and renewable ocean energy amongst others. The blue economy, as an ecological economics development strategy, is reinforced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDG) 14 which advocates the sustainable use of ocean resources. Thus, it can be rightly deduced that the blue economy strategy, as currently championed by its advocates, derives its international legitimacy from the UNSDG 14. The UNSDG is the developmental strategy successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). It is a collection of 17 purposeful development goals and 169 targets to drive the goals adopted by the UN in 2015 with a 2030 fulfilment agenda. The UNSDG is universally binding on all UN member states, unlike the MDG which made distinction between developed and developing member states.

A cardinal focus of UNSDG in general and Goal 14 in particular is the principle of sustainability or sustainable development. Sustainable development, as conceived by the Brundtland Commission of 1987, is development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. The sustainable development of nations, particularly littoral states, from the oceans is therefore the raison d’être of blue economy. Thus, blue economy symbolizes and comprehends that form of maritime economy which employs effective regulation through ocean governance regime to achieve ocean sustainability for enhanced economic growth and improved citizenry well-being. A proper understanding of the concept begins with the understanding that all littoral states operate one form of maritime economy or the other by default. While the maritime economy exploited ocean resources under a tragedy of the commons principle, blue economy seeks to exploit ocean resources under an international sustainable development framework. Thus, the sustainability constituent of blue economy differentiates it from its age-old traditional maritime economy variant.

A balanced study of, and research on blue economy would inexorably be predicated on sustainable development theory which stands out as an appropriate theoretical framework for blue economy researches. The sustainable development theoretical framework advocates that economic development must go side-by-side environmental sustainability and social well-being in a manner as not to imperil future generations’ chances of developing therefrom. It is represented by the balanced intersection of the environment, society and economy. There have been differing views on the prioritization of the 3 components of sustainable development. Some scholars have advocated the allocation of greater weight to environment while others have advocated similar weight for society. There is, however, a general consensus on the allocation of the least weight to the economy, which has been the stimulus for the overexploitation of earth’s resources over the years with its attendant anti-sustainability outcomes.

The scientific measurement of ocean sustainability in an all-inclusive environmental, social and economic manner has been a major challenge in the assessment of the developmental impacts of blue economy since its inception. This challenge is an inherent constraint of the sustainability concept. It is for this reason that marine data (scientific ocean data comprising biological, chemical, oceanographic, meteorological and geological data) and maritime data (economic ocean data composed of blue economy investment data and percentage contribution of ocean resources to national Gross Domestic Product etc) constitute fundamental aspects of blue economy assessments. In the absence of adequate and relevant data, when and where needed, computing sustainability becomes difficult, if not impossible, and ultimately defeats the essence of the blue economy. These data which make up the blue economy statistics, are expected to provide decision makers with accurate information necessary for good planning for activities in the maritime domain consistent with ocean sustainability principles. Principal ocean sustainability principles include the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) regimes amongst others. These principles and practices give full effect to the sustainable development constituent of blue economy when effectively administered.

The MSP exemplifies the coordination of all maritime stakeholders within a given national maritime space for regulated and non-conflicting activities within the space with respect to who does what, when, where, why and how. Similarly, MPA ensures that certain maritime spaces are protected from ecosystem degradation within specified periods or ad infinitum. In essence, under MSP, the coordinator plans and administers national maritime space for the prevention of the tragedy of the commons. Thus, MSP plays a most critical role in the actualization of sustainable development under a blue economy. Consequently, littoral states seeking to emplace blue economy regimes must of necessity establish effective MSP where there is none, or strengthen existing MSP (which in reality may exist by other nomenclatures) where they are weak.

Three countries, one in Europe (Republic of Ireland) and 2 in Africa (Republics of Seychelles and South Africa) provide exemplary models for the establishment of blue economy. Ireland started her blue economy project in 2012 through an Integrated Marine Plan under the Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth (HOOW) policy. Under the Plan, Ireland established 8 blue economy enablers comprising the Clean Green Marine, maritime security and Research and Development (R&D) amongst others. Similarly, Seychelles started her blue economy project in 2015 by establishing the Blue Economy Strategy Roadmap Implementation (BESRI), Blue Economy Department (BED) under the Ministry of Finance, Blue Economy Research Institute (BERI), MSP Infrastructure and MPAs.11 Also, South Africa established her blue economy in 2014 through Operation Phakisa by establishing Ocean Economy Labs (OEL), an Ocean Act, an integrated ocean governance regime, national MSP and a Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) for the blue economy under the Presidency.

The 3 model countries provide the essential and mandatory frameworks required for the establishment and effective operationalization of the blue economy. These are credible legal and task specific institutional frameworks as well as MSP, maritime security and R&D amongst others. The net importance of these policies and frameworks are evident in their respective pre and post blue economy era Human Development Indices (HDI), which is the United Nations gold standard for the evaluation of national development. Ireland had HDI of 0.902 in 2012 and 0.923 in 2016, while Seychelles had 0.756 in 2014 And 0.782 in 2016. Meanwhile, South Africa’s blue economy project created 220 jobs and secured US$32.1 million in stakeholders’ investments in the first year of its implementation. It is also estimated to contribute US$ 1.3 billion to the GDP and create over one million jobs by 2033.Thus, the establishment of a well-articulated legal and institutional frameworks, as the blue economy first order of business, is a sine qua non. Relatedly, the emplacement of an effective maritime security, R&D and the maintenance of adequate and accessible national marine/maritime databank must of necessity follow up on the legal and institutional frameworks in order for blue economy to thrive credibly.

Blue Economy:The Nigerian Challenge
By Cdre Sunday Daniel Atakpa

Three countries considered as being in the forefront of blue economy implementation – Republics of Ireland, Seychelles and South Africa – provide would-be implementers of blue economy with useful lessons. The lessons include the need for well-articulated blue economy policy, robust legal and institutional frameworks, effective maritime security as well as adequate and accessible marine and maritime data among others. Two of these lessons, blue economy legal and institutional frameworks, would be discussed in this piece. It is important to establish from the outset that blue economy legal and institutional frameworks are intrinsically linked because the former precipitates the latter, and both are triggered by blue economy policy. blue economy policy articulates the policy direction of littoral states (although landlocked states can also emplace blue economy policies subject to the provisions of Arts 71 and 87 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) for the attainment of sustainable development from the ocean. The 2012 Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth (HOOW) policy document of the Republic of Ireland, the Blue Economy Strategy Roadmap Implementation (BESRI) of the Republic of Seychelles and the Operation Phakisa policy document of the Republic of South Africa were initiated preparatory to the establishment of blue economy regimes in the respective countries. One unique blue economy principle that featured in the three different policies is the centrality of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) to an operative blue economy. The MSP would be discussed in detail in subsequent editions. In Nigeria, the 2 developed maritime economy sectors are the shipping and fisheries sectors. There is however currently no single comprehensive policy bridging these 2 sectors under a maritime economy regime. Nigeria’s shipping policy (considered obsolete) is a stand-alone policy. Similarly, the Agricultural Promotion Policy (2016–2020) addresses agricultural objectives to the exclusion of fisheries which the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) superintends. Meanwhile, the National Fisheries Development Committee (NFDC), which is the highest policy formulating body on fisheries matters in Nigeria, appears to operate in isolation from FMARD. Thus, there is no fusion of policies between key maritime stakeholders. This does not allow for synergized ocean economy development and accountability. More importantly, this form of arrangement betrays the essence of MSP which aims at unifying and coordinating all maritime stakeholders in the national maritime space for the attainment of ocean sustainability alongside economic development through shared and common policy direction. The shared policy objectives are in turn translated into legal and institutional frameworks necessary for driving national blue economy regimes.

Legal Framework

The blue economy legal framework connotes legislative enactments for the establishment of blue economy under a balanced 3-dimensional (economy, environment and society) development. To give effect to her blue economy policy, the Republic of South Africa established the Ocean Act and the Integrated Ocean Governance regime. The Ocean Act was necessary to give Operation Phakisa the force of law as a blue economy component of South Africa’s national development plan 2030. Operation Phakisa created 220 jobs and secured USD 32.1 million in stakeholder’s investments in the first year of its implementation. Similarly, the United States of America (USA) Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MSA) of 1976 was amended in 2007 to enable her achieve long-term sustainability in fisheries. The amendment instituted a fish consumption regime whereby about 85 per cent of USA fish consumption is caught, grown or processed in other countries, thus allowing her time to replenish her domestic fish stocks. Although this has its disadvantage because each fish bought from a country with less stringent sustainability standards contributes to the decline of global fisheries. Notwithstanding, the regime helped the USA to sustainably grow her ocean economy which contributed USD359 billion to her GDP and created 3 million jobs and 149,000 business establishments in 2013; up from significantly lower figures in the pre-amendment era. Thus, the enactment of sustainable maritime legislations (where there is none) and amendment of obsolete ones to accommodate sustainability principles is a prerequisite for the establishment of blue economy. Some of Nigeria’s shipping and fisheries laws have generated areas of operational conflict and duplication of statutory functions while others are simply obsolete requiring amendment. For instance, there exist marginal conflict areas between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) operations and some other maritime agencies (inadvertently created by their establishment acts and deliberately exploited by their respective operators). This has led to inter-agency rivalries, loss of national revenue and a clog in the wheel of progress in some instances. Similarly, Nigeria’s Sea Fisheries Act 1992 does not have provision for Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF) and other evolving fisheries sustainability principles not envisaged at the time of its drafting. Thus, for Nigeria to emplace a blue economy regime, there is the need to rejig her obsolete legislations to conform to present day ocean sustainability realities.

Institutional Framework

The blue economy institutional framework covers the gamut of administrative and operational maritime entities established through legislative frameworks to actualize blue economy sustainable development objectives. The MSP is usually pivotal in blue economy institutional framework. It blends effective and judicious utilization of national maritime space by all maritime stakeholders through professional coordination. The MSP administrator is a versatile maritime expert per excellence. The Republic of Seychelles created the Blue Economy Department (BED) in 2015 to administer her blue economy project. Since its establishment, the BED (which actually matches her small economy of USD1.5 billion GDP and a population of less than 100 thousand as against Nigeria’s over USD 490 billion GDP and a population of over 180 million) has been the sole administrator of the country’s blue economy and answers to the central government on all blue economy matters. Similarly, under Operation Phakisa, a Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) domiciled in the Presidency provides the Presidency with a weekly monitoring report on the country’s blue economy. These mechanisms establish proper coordination and accountability for both countries’ blue economy regimes. Nigeria’s array of maritime institutions includes NPA, NIMASA, Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC), Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, Federal Department of Fisheries (FDF) and the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR) among others. The existence of some of these institutions under different ministries that operate independent of the other does not allow for proper coordination of the blue economy activities and proper accountability for the blue economy worth of the nation. Also, such arrangement tends to put a strain on national budget through different budgeting arrangements.

A Way Forward

Hereunder is a suggested progressive approach to the establishment of a blue economy in Nigeria. The first task is to establish a blue economy policy by constituting a team of maritime, economic and ecological experts to fashion out an all-inclusive blue economy policy. I designate this team the Blue Economy Implementation Strategy Team (BEIST). The Team is to, among other things, conduct lectures, town hall meetings, conferences and seminars and workshops on blue economy with maritime stakeholders across the country with the aim of collating their respective views on the planned blue economy regime. The Team is to articulate the different stakeholders’ positions into a policy direction for the blue economy. Stakeholders are generally composed of government and non-governmental bodies. The governmental bodies include but not limited to Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) such as the Federal Ministries of Transport, FMAD, Environment, Culture and Tourism, Nigerian Navy, NIMASA, NPA, NSC, FDF, NIOMR, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and MAN. The non-governmental bodies on the other hand include shipping companies under the aegis of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), fishing companies under the aegis of Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA), the academia under the aegis of Nigerian Maritime universities and Institutes (NMUI), Maritime Writers Association of Nigeria among others. The BEIST is to draft a Blue Economy Bill (BEB) from the articulated views/comments and expert inputs of stakeholders. The Bill is to include among others, the establishment of a MSP authority. The body could be a coordinating ministry, department or agency empowered to superintend all blue economy stakeholders in the country. The blue economy coordinating ministry, department or agency is to be headed by an administrator who is a distinguished maritime expert in both professional competence and high moral rectitude whose primary focus would be selfless service to the nation. These strategies, in my humble view, would serve as the very first step in the establishment of a credible blue economy for Nigeria.