Let’s talk about the “Blue Economy.” Essentially, it’s a term for maritime commerce and business development. As more information about the ocean becomes available, new policies are enacted to ensure a country can have a successful transoceanic industry.
The ocean contains minerals, food sources, and fiber-optic cables that connect the world to the internet. With modernity comes the need to evolve ocean commerce. A “New Blue Economy” is underway, driven by science and data captured from oceanographic research.
Impact Of Ocean Commerce
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in 2019, the American blue economy grew faster than the national one. Ocean-based employment supported 2.4 million jobs and contributed $397 billion to the U.S.’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Tourism, shipping, commercial and recreational fishing, hydropower, and research dominated this sector.
From 2014 to 2019, the maritime GDP grew by 4.2%. That was actually higher than the average total U.S. GDP growth percentage. In the New Blue Economy, improved data collection, analysis, and information sharing are needed to grow commerce and address societal issues like climate change.
NOAA says the New Blue Economy will require bolstering established areas of the current Blue Economy. Energy generation, coastal community resilience, and equitable access to ocean data will be necessary to make real differences. These efforts include protecting freshwater areas like the Great Lakes, as any large body of water used for maritime commerce will benefit from new empirical data.
There are several sectors where scientific research can power changes for the evolution of transoceanic business and policy.
Photo Courtesy Todd Cravens
Data Gathering Endeavors
One area harvesting date is whale conservation. Whales play a vital role in ocean ecosystems, including sequestering carbon. However, mammals are prone to injury when they strike the hulls of freighters. Sadly, some of these collisions can be fatal.
The Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory’s WhaleSafe project helps supply ship captains with data about where whales populate to cut down on casualties. Acoustic and visual graphs that pinpoint whale locations are provided to mariners, with the hope of reducing collisions and helping the Coast Guard signal freighters about whale spottings.
Photo Courtesy Jeremy Bishop
Another significant research undertaking is mapping the seafloor. A multinational joint venture is taking up the helm in this expansive mapping project. Seabed 2030 aims to uncover the mysteries of the world’s ocean floor — the least explored part of Earth.
According to the World Economic Forum, as of November 2022, the data collected from the seabed have led to 23.4% more knowledge of the ocean floor, compared to 6% in prior years.
Seabed 2030 says the projection so far for 2023 is 24.9%. Having a strong, accessible ocean floor map allows for greater management, and better decisions surrounding climate change mitigation, natural disaster preparation, and fishing management can be made.
Funding Innovations At Sea
Administered through the Water Power Technologies Office, funds are provided through competitions to businesses developing these solutions. Some areas the DOE is looking to improve are water desalination, offshore renewable energy, and invigorating coastal community economies.
To boost social equity involvement and increase new ideas, organizations like the World Economic Forum’s Ocean Action Agenda (Friends of Ocean Action) have gotten creative. It launched the Uplink Ocean Data Challenge in May 2022 “to help match problems to solutions and accelerate our path to sustainability.”
The challenge called on startups and social enterprises to contribute marine data to further research on ocean conservation and advocate for sustainability in the blue economy. Twenty-six submissions were made, and 11 winners were announced in January. The winning projects ranged from sensors for commercial fishing gear to artificial intelligence used to map and reduce marine litter.
The New Blue Economy relies on equitable, scientifically-inclined decisions gathered through proper analysis and collaboration. It calls for all hands on deck to meet the call for sustainable oceans, propelling economic growth and a cleaner climate.