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The Blue Economy in the Caribbean

July 15 2019 - by Carole Houlihan, CLP's Gender and Diversity Specialist

The Blue Economy is a relatively new term used to describe sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem. It is an emerging concept which encourages better stewardship of our ocean or 'blue' resources.  Similar to the 'Green Economy', the blue economy model aims to improve human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

The first global conference on the sustainable Blue Economy was held in Nairobi in November 2018 hosted by the governments of Kenya, Canada, and Japan.  The conference aimed to capture concrete commitments and practical actions to tap the potential of the world’s oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers, particularly to support developing states, women, youth, and Indigenous peoples.

A recent CDB/UNDP publication, Financing the Blue Economy: A Caribbean Development Opportunity outlines the potential of the blue economy to drive sustained and inclusive economic growth through new and high-value blue economy growth industries such as aquaculture, marine biotechnology, deep seabed mining, and ocean renewable energy.

The World Bank estimates that the Caribbean’s ocean economy generated 18% of the region’s total 2012 GDP (USD407 bn). This includes production and services in fishing, transport, trade, mining, waste disposal, energy, carbon sequestration, and drug development. Yet major challenges facing the ocean—decline of reef-building corals, ocean pollution from untreated wastewater, agricultural runoff, and industrial pollution, plastics and erosion of beaches on the Caribbean Sea—threaten economic growth and sustainability.    

Although only 2% of the global maritime workforce is female, in Caribbean fisheries, women conduct the majority of supportive roles and post-harvest work and dominate in processing and marketing activities and hold important roles in the fisheries industries.  This sector presents opportunities for expanded employment and entrepreneurship.

Roles of Caribbean Women in the Fisheries Value Chain

Although there are opportunities for women, men and  youth  to expand their roles in traditional blue industries like fisheries, tourism, shipping and oil and gas,  the focus of the Blue Economy is on new and emerging opportunities such as offshore wind and ocean energy, aquaculture, and high tech marine services and biotechnology.  These industries require new skills and investments and this national and regional training for young women and men in highly technical skills, and a supportive environment for new business ventures, and a new way of thinking.


How is your country supporting the new industries in the Blue Economy?