[Burning Issue] Blue Economy: Prospects and Challenges

blue economy


  • For the first time, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru have been roped in to study the ecological and economical value of water bodies and coasts in Karnataka. This will be part of a Blue Economy study, a joint initiative taken up by the Central government and the World Bank.
  • Also, in December 2022, India and Indonesia organized the 4th ASEAN-Indian Blue Economy Workshop.
  • Both events underscore the idea of Blue Economy. Hence this edition of the Burning Issue will elaborate on the idea of blue economy from the perspective of both world and India.

What is Blue Economy?

  • Blue Economy is defined by the World Bank as the “Sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ecosystem.”
  • It essentially refers to the multitude of ocean resources available in the country that can be harnessed to aid the production of goods and services because of its linkages with economic growth, environmental sustainability, and national security.
  • Gunter Pauli’s book, “The Blue Economy: 10 years, 100 innovations, 100 million jobs” (2010) brought the Blue Economy concept into prominence.
  • The UN first introduced “blue economy” at a conference in 2012 and underlined sustainable management, based on the argument that marine ecosystems are more productive when they are healthy. In fact, the UN notes that the Blue Economy is exactly what is needed to implement SDG 14, Life Below Water.

Significance of Blue Economy

  • Source of renewable energy: Maritime renewable energy sources, such as offshore wind, floating solar arrays and wave and tidal power, hold enormous promise to build energy independence and help countries meet their emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The report Offshore wind outlook 2019 by the International Energy Agency (IEA), offshore wind power has the potential to generate more than 18 times the global electricity demand today.
  • New jobs and food security: Investing in sustainable fisheries and, in particular, aquaculture will create well-paid jobs and help promote food security and economic fairness, especially in developing countries.
  • Tourism: Sustainable and regenerative tourism can form a critical building block in ensuring a lasting economic recovery for coastal nations in a way that supports the ocean and nature – and the countless people who depend on them.
  • Maritime transport: One of the largest employers within ocean-related activities. Maritime transport plays a big role in the globalized market in the form of containerships, tankers, and ports, coastal tourism is the largest employer within ocean-related activities.
  • Eighty percent of trade happens on the seas: Eighty per cent of world trade happens using the seas, 40 per cent of the world’s population lives near coastal areas, and more than three billion people access the oceans for their livelihood.

Current Status of Blue Economy in the world

  • Adds value to the Global Economy: According to the OECD, oceans contribute $1.5 trillion annually in value-added to the overall economy and this number could reach $3 trillion by 2030.
  • Livelihood and jobs: The FAO estimates that around 58.5 million people are employed worldwide in primary fish production alone – of which approximately 21 percent are women. It is estimated that about 600 million livelihoods depend at least partially on fisheries and aquaculture.  Most are in developing countries and are small-scale, artisanal fishers and fish farmers.
  • Food production: In 2020, global production of aquatic animals was estimated at 178 tonnes – of which capture fisheries contributed 90 million tonnes. , with a “first sale” value estimated at US$406 – of which US$ 141 billion for capture fisheries and US$ 265 billion for aquaculture.
  • Source of protein: In 2019 aquatic foods provided about 3.3 billion people with at least 20 percent of their average intake of animal protein, with an even higher proportion in many poor countries.
  • Tourism: Over 350 million people annually travel to the coral reef coast of the world. The coral reef tourism sector has an estimated annual value of $36 billion. Coastal and marine tourism constitute approximately 50 per cent of all global tourism, equal to USD 4.6 trillion or 5.2 per cent of the global gross domestic product.
  • Energy production: Offshore wind currently provides just 0.3% of global power generation, but its potential is vast.
  • Promoting exports: A new UNCTAD report estimates the export value in ocean-based industries at $2.5 trillion, according to the latest available data, covering 2018.

Significance of Blue Economy for India

  • India’s blue economy is a subset of the national economy comprising the entire ocean resources system and human-made economic infrastructure in marine, maritime, and onshore coastal zones within the country’s legal jurisdiction.
  • Vast coastline: With some 7,500 kilometers, India has a unique maritime position. Nine of its 29 states are coastal, and its geography includes 1,382 islands.
  • Large EEZ: Besides, India’s Exclusive Economic Zone of over 2 million square kilometers has a bounty of living and non-living resources with significant recoverable resources such as crude oil and natural gas.
  • Supports coastal lives: The coastal economy sustains over 4 million fishermen and coastal towns. India is the second largest fish-producing nation in the world and has a fleet of 2,50,000 fishing boats.
  • Growth of states: Nine of India’s states has access to the coastline. India comprises 200 ports of which 12 are major ports that handled 541.76 million tonnes in FY21, the highest being Mormugao Port, located in Goa, which handled 62.6% of the total traffic.
  • Unhindered access to the Indian Ocean: The Indian Ocean’s Blue Economy has become a global economic corridor. It is the world’s third-largest body of water, covering 68.5 million square km and rich in oil and mineral resources, and countries around the ocean’s periphery are home to about one-third of humanity.
  • Ocean mineral resources: Polymetallic nodules, which are golf-to-tennis-ball-sized nodules containing nickel, cobalt, iron, and manganese that grow over millions of years on the seafloor, are often discovered at 4-5 Kms in water depth. In 1987, India was granted exclusive rights to explore polymetallic nodules in the Central Indian Ocean Basin. It has explored four million square miles and established two mine locations since then.

Concerns regarding the blue economy

  • Human-induced Oceanic pollution: Marine activities have brought in pollution, ocean warming, eutrophication, acidification and fishery collapse as consequences on the marine ecosystems.
  • Oceans are rarely financial institutions: The ocean is uncharted territory, and rarely understood by financial institutions. Hence preparedness of these institutions in making available affordable long-term financing at scale is nearly zero.
  • Developing nations pay a heavy price: In this journey of achieving blue economy goals, it is developing nations that pay a heavy economic price.
  • Lack of capacity is a critical hindrance: Many developing nations have high levels of external debt. Lack of capacity and technology for transition between the Agri economy and marine economy is also a critical hindrance.
  • Not having an elaborative guiding principle is a major concern: There is concern that without the elaboration of specific principles or guidance, national blue economies, or sustainable ocean economies, economic growth will be pursued with little attention paid to environmental sustainability and social equity.

What needs to be done?

  • Decarbonize global shipping: If this industrial sector were a country, it would be the world’s eighth-largest in terms of carbon emissions. The good news is that emerging technologies can vastly reduce emissions from vessels and port facilities. The international community needs to set new standards to ensure best practices are implemented evenly around the world.
  • Investing in sustainable fisheries: in particular, aquaculture will create well-paid jobs and help promote food security and economic fairness, especially in developing countries.
  • Sustainable and regenerative tourism: can form a critical building block in ensuring a lasting economic recovery for coastal nations in a way that supports the ocean and nature – and the countless people who depend on them.
  • Inclusive discussion and participation is a must: The blue economy is based on multiple fields within ocean science and, therefore, needs inter-sectoral experts and stakeholders. It is imperative to involve the civil society, fishing communities, indigenous people and communities for an inclusive discussion.
  • SDG-14 journey cannot undermine the other SDGs: The UN stresses that equity must not be forgotten when supporting a blue economy. Land and resources often belong to communities, and the interests of communities dependent on the ocean are often marginalized since sectors such as coastal tourism are encouraged to boost the economy.
  • Integrated marine spatial planning with national and global expertise is necessary: Developing the blue economy should be based on national and global expertise. It is important that any blue economy transformation should include using integrated marine spatial planning. This would provide collaborative participation of all stakeholders of the oceans, and would make room for debate, discussion and conflict resolution between the stakeholders.

Steps taken by Indian Government

  • Draft National Policy for India’s Blue Economy: The Ministry of Earth Sciences released the draft of the National Policy for India’s Blue Economy 2021. The goal of the policy document is to increase the blue economy’s contribution to India’s GDP, improve the lives of coastal residents, protect marine biodiversity, and ensure the national security of maritime areas and resources. The proposed policy framework emphasizes policies in a number of critical areas, including fisheries to aim to achieve holistic growth. The four objectives of this blue economy policy are:
  • Sustainable framework for a National Coastal Marine: An Expert Group would be formed to recommend changes to meet the national and local needs. The CMSP (Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning) would serve as the foundation for the future development of the Blue Economy in India’s Exclusive Economic zones, which includes the country’s islands, as well as developing ecotourism in island areas and expanding the number of Blue Flag beaches.
  • Integration with National Coastal Mission and SDG-14: Blue Economy activities will be integrated with the National Coastal Mission, which is being proposed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change. Blue Economy Policy will also include the execution of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG-14).
  • The National Blue Economy Council: There is a proposal for the initiation of an apex body, the National Blue Economy Council will enforce this and prevent compartmentalized work, wastage of effort and policy uncertainty by combining all current skills and programs into a single supervisory agency for comprehensive planning and implementation.
  • The Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) was established in 2015-16 with a five-year budget of Rs. 3,000 crores (US$ 384.3 million).
  • The ‘Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) was established in 2018-19 with a fund size of Rs. 7,522.48 crores (963.5 million) to provide concessional credit to state/UT governments, their entities, and the private sector to fill significant gaps in the fisheries infrastructure.
  • Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY): was launched in 2020, with the highest investment of Rs. 20,050crore (US$ 2.5 billion) to bring about a Blue Revolution through sustainable and responsible development of the country’s fisheries sector.


  • The Blue Economy is poised for significant growth in the next few years. Transitioning away from an agricultural industry towards a bluer economy will be demanding. This means that governments must work together to make blue economies sustainable, share research and know-how.
  • In India, The sector is the sixth dimension of the government’s ‘Vision of New India by 2030’; with the Blue Economy policies aiming for long-term economic advantages in order to achieve the greater goals of growth, job creation, equity, and environmental protection.

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