Will 2019 see the first big shift towards a sustainable blue economy in the Mediterranean? | WWF

Will 2019 see the first big shift towards a sustainable blue economy in the Mediterranean?

Posted on
10 January 2019

Last November, 18,000 people from 184 countries gathered in Nairobi (Kenya) for the first international Conference on Sustainable Blue Economy. The event marked an unprecedented shift from the “Blue Growth” approach that has so far dominated discussion of the ocean economy, with a consideration of environmental issues being central. While acknowledging the enormous – and still partly unexploited – potential of the ocean for key sectors such as energy, transport, fisheries and tourism, all participants agreed on the need to develop new economic models that would guarantee the security and well-being of the marine environment.

At the Nairobi Conference, the MMI co-hosted a side-event to stress the importance of improving regional cooperation to achieve a sustainable blue economy in the Mediterranean. It is crucial to ensure that all public and private actors endorse such a shift if we want to safeguard the precious and finite natural resources of a region that has already reached record levels of overfishing and plastic pollution and is projected to receive increasing number of tourists in the coming years.

Although we are still at a very early stage, most Mediterranean governance actors are starting to align on some of the basic principles of a sustainable blue economy. These include the adoption of an ecosystem-based approach to maritime spatial planning, which helps locate new maritime business developments outside sensitive areas, an effective way to avoid damaging the marine environment.

In the near future, WWF MMI will be engaging with key industry champions from the maritime transport, tourism and aquaculture sectors to ensure they adopt measures to minimize their environmental impact, by reducing carbon emissions and pollution sources, but also improving recycling and reducing marine litter while increasing investments in conservation projects. We will also develop sets of practical recommendations, within the PHAROS4MPAs project, aiming to regulate the increasing overlaps and conflicts between maritime sectors and marine protected areas in the Mediterranean Sea.

We will work with key financial players to ensure that future investments in the region are in line with the the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles. The Mediterranean BlueInvest event that the EU Commission will host on 24 January in Malta will hopefully see the development of a new wave of public and private engagement towards innovative and more sustainable economic activities in the region.

As WWF’s President and economist Pavan Sukhdev said: « To be “sustainable”, the blue economy needs a model quite different from our dominant economic model: a ‘take-make-dispose’ economy. The central challenge for senior policymakers and business leaders is to provide a clear steer to prevent the ocean from being treated as the next new frontier for conventional capitalism. This emerging economy’s purpose will have to be agreed by these leaders for the world to have any hope of achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 14. »

WWF MMI stands ready to work in partnership with all committed actors – public, private and from civil society – to build a solid framework towards sustainable activities in the Mediterranean.

By Mauro Randone, Regional Project Manager, WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative