Blue Economy. The new frontier for marine environmental protection and sustainable development

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2020

31 Pages, Grade: 4.65
























The ability to maintain the marine environment to provide jobs and nutrition on long term is being threatened by human economic activities and development approaches. The blue economy was initiated to provide services and values that are beneficial to local communities, coastal states and the world at large. Blue economy is an integration of sustainable development and growth which involves every aspect of national and global governance, economic development, environmental protection and sustainability. The basis of blue economy is to achieve long term prosperity by a country befitting the wellbeing of all citizens and mankind preserving the environment, especially the oceans. The earth surface is covered by water and as such the fact that the oceans and seas matter for sustainable development is an undeniable fact. This paper is aimed at analyzing the concept of blue economy as an instrument for protecting marine environment and ensuring sustainable development. The paper reviewed and analyzed the importance and principles of Blue economy. The paper identified the challenges of blue economy and possible solutions.

Keywords: Blue Economy, Marine Environmental Protection, Sustainable Development, Nigeria.


The concept of Blue Economy also known as “Ocean Economy” or “Blue Growth” originated from the United Nations Conference on sustainable Development held in Rio de Janiero in 20121.

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution 70/226 to “convene the high-level United Nations conference to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14; Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable Development Goal 14”2.

Blue economy is an emerging concept which encourages sustainability of ocean, natural resources at sea and a healthy climate. It is an initiative fast developing around the world. It was pioneered by SIDS (Small Island Developing States) and has since become relevant to all coastal states and countries with an interest in waters beyond national jurisdiction. The blue economy ensures efficient management and sustainable exploitation of resources in oceans, seas, rivers and lakes. It entails the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and a healthy ocean ecosystem growth. It encompasses many activities such as Renewable Energy, fisheries, Maritime Transport, Waste Management, Tourism and Climate change.

The main advocates and frontlines of the Blue Economy has always been the Coastal and Island developing countries who recognize that the oceans have a major role to play in humanity’s future and that the Blue Economy offers an approach to sustainable development better suited to their circumstances, constraints and challenges.


This research aims at filling the gap in knowledge and literature on the implementation of Blue Economy of Nigeria through the development and protection of marine resources. It seeks to address the challenges, economy opportunities and policies that will strengthen the Blue Economy of Nigeria with the following objectives:

1. To identify and examine the concept of Blue Economy.
2. To analyze the benefits and implementation of Blue Economy in Nigeria.
3. To examine the challenges of Blue Economy, especially in Nigeria.
4. To highlight suggestions and ideas on how the Blue Economy can boost Nigeria's economy.


This research adopts the doctrinal research methodology which is a library-based and desktop-based research. Using the doctrinal approach, the study adopts the use of primary sources of law. Primary sources are laws and rules issued by competent official bodies within the three arms of government. These primary sources include; constitutions, statutes and case laws, official gazettes and international treaties. Secondary sources include; journals, books, online articles and publications listed in the bibliography.


Blue economy –Blue Economy is defined as a marine-based economy that provides social and economic benefits for current and future generations, restores, protects and maintains the diversity, productivity and resilience of marine ecosystems and is based on clean technologies, renewal energy and circular material flows3.

According to European Commission, Blue economy is defined as all economic activities related to oceans, seas and coasts. It covers a wide range of inter linked established and emerging sectors4.

The Commonwealth of Nations defined Blue Economy as an emerging concept which encourages better stewardship of our ocean or blue resources5.

Marine Environment: Marine Environment can be described as the oceans, seas, bays, estuaries and other major water bodies including their surface interface and interaction with the atmosphere and with the land seaward of the mean high water mark6.

Sustainable Development: Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs7.


The concept of Blue Economy is an independent concept, not in competition with green economy, though similar to the ‘Green Economy’ with the aim of improving human wellbeing and social equity while also reducing environmental risk and ecological scarcities8. It has the potential to create both economic growth and development.

For proper understanding of the Blue Economy, some economic forms such as marine economy development, economy coping with global water crisis, and economy to develop innovations must be put into consideration. It is a model to develop and sustain marine economic with the aim of developing marine economy, protecting marine ecosystem and sustaining utilization of resources. The desirability and achievement of the blue economy is hinged on three (3) pillars – the economic sustainability, the environmental sustainability and the social sustainability.

Oceans protect biodiversity, drive economic growth, provide jobs, keep the planet cool and absorb about 30% of global carbon dioxide emission. About 3-5% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is derived from oceans9.

Due to the importance of Blue Economy, the World Bank established a Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) called PROBLUE to support implementation of sustainable and increasing income and welfare of the people in a sustainable way. The focus of PROBLUE is on four key themes;

a. The management of fisheries and aquaculture
b. The threats posed to ocean health by marine pollution including litter and plastics
c. The sustainable development of key ocean sectors such as tourism, maritime transport and off-shore renewal energy.
d. Building the capacity of government to management their marine and coastal resources in an integrated fashion to deliver more and long lasting benefits to countries and communities including the role of nature-based solutions to climate charge

PROBLUE was established for better understanding of current trends and emerging threats to oceans; identify appropriate solutions for action, and due to client demand. PROBLUE is a key instrument for raising awareness and promoting investment.

The first global conference of the Blue Economy was held in Nairobi, Kenya with the theme “Blue Economy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, new technologies and innovation for oceans, seas, lakes and rivers well discussed, as well as challenges, potential opportunities, priorities and partnerships. Therefore, to build a blue economy, there is need to put sustainability at its center and ensure that policies do not undermine each other and that inter-linkages are leveraged for the benefit of people, planet, and prosperity.

The Nairobi Blue Economy Conference has two main goals:

a) To harness the potential of the World’s Oceans, Seas, lakes and rivers to improve the lives of all, particularly people in developing countries, women, youth and indigenous people.
b) To leverage the latest innovations, scientific advances and best policies to build prosperity, while conserving the earth’s waters for future generations10.

The world’s attention is focused on the outcome of the Blue Economy conference in Nairobi due to the importance of the oceans and inland waters. Over 80 percent of World trade merchandise is moved by water and thus maritime transport is major international trade facilitation11.

The Blue Economy strengthens partnerships built on existing maritime, riparian, lacustrine, and river basin cooperation mechanisms which has a high possibility to produce growth in the economic development of individual States and the expansion of progress, peace, and prosperity across the continent12.

Blue Economy also addresses inherent financial, technical, and infrastructure gaps of individual States by creating economies of scales that prevent the realization of the full potential of their aquatic and marine resources. To realize the full advantages and importance of the Blue Economy, there has to be delimitation of maritime boundaries. There has to be joint development, regional co-operation and states are encouraged to resolve their disputes by using existing instruments, including third-party dispute settlement procedures, such as international courts or tribunals13.

On the issue of co-operation and balanced approach to the Blue Economy, some options must be considered by States such as:

- Ensure the existence of interdependence between security and development as vital keys to achieving sustainable peace.
- Create opportunities to enhance livelihood and well-being of coastal, lacustrine, and riparian populations.
- Ratify and implement relevant international and regional instruments related to maritime safety and security, as well as illegal practices, and harmonize national legislation with their provisions.
- Foster social inclusion such as local communities, youths, women and minority groups.
- Strengthen continental, sub-regional, and transnational cooperation mechanisms for preventive diplomacy and mediation, for the maintenance of international peace and security, conflict resolution, and the sharing of relevant information14.


Under International Law, state parties have rights, jurisdictions and responsibilities on issues relating to the peaceful use of oceans as stated under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, 1982). A Blue Economy policy articulates the policy direction of littoral states, although landlocked states can also emplace Blue Economy Policies subject to the provisions of UNCLOS15 for the attainment of sustainable development from the ocean16.

UNCLOS answers critical legal questions on the delineation of maritime zones and the extent of the territorial boundaries of adjoining coastal states. It also highlights other provisions of non-living resources within the seafloor, the obligation for the protection and preservation of the marine environment, provisions on the transfer of marine technology, marine scientific research among others17. UNCLOS established the ocean governance framework which provides for cooperation amongst states and the promotion of peace, socio-economic progress and sustainable development of the oceans and seas.

The Blue Economy legal framework connotes legislative enactments for the establishment of Blue Economy under 3 balanced dimensions (economy, environment and society). To this end, South Africa established the Ocean Act and the Integrated Ocean Governance Regime to give Operation Phakisa the force of law as a blue economy component of South Africa’s national development plan 2030. Similarly, the United States of America Magnuson – Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MSA) 1976 was amended in 2007 to achieve long term sustainability in Fisheries. In Nigeria, shipping and fisheries sectors are the two developed maritime economy with no single Comprehensive Policy bridging these two sectors. There is no fusion of policies between key maritime stakeholders in Nigeria and this does not allow for synergized ocean economy development and accountability18.

Some of Nigeria’s shipping and fisheries laws have generated areas of operational conflict and duplication of statutory functions while others are simply obsolete.


Sustainable development implies that economic development is both inclusive and environmentally sound, and to be undertaken in a manner that does not deplete the natural resources that societies depend on in the long term. The key component of the blue economy lies in the balance of economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

The Blue Economy since pioneered by SIDS has become relevant to all coastal states and countries with an interest in waters beyond national jurisdiction and more. The concept of Blue Economy constitutes a sustainable development structure for developing countries to address equity in access, development and the sharing of benefits from marine resources; also offers scope for human development re-investment and the alleviation of national debt burdens. An effective and sustainable Blue Economy will entail preserving socioeconomic development from environmental degradation; efficient and optimized use of resources; regards for environmental and ecological parameters; sustainable use of biodiversity; advancement of the narrow resource base; environmentally-sound, and socially inclusive economic growth.

The World Bank identified four major points in ensuring sustainable Blue Economy and improving the growth potential of the Blue Economy.

a) Investment in good governance – According to the World Bank, a good investment in governance will protect resources for future growth and create numerous opportunities to grow the blue economy for the benefits of both national economies and local communities. It will promote sustainable management of aquatic resources, ensure resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem, empower local communities, reduce risk and provide incentives for innovation by private sector investors. Effective governance will also enhance the contribution of fisheries, aquaculture and mariculture to the macro-economy19.
b) Technology – The World Bank states that the vital use of science, data and technology is critical to influence decision making, reform governance and discern the impact of any management changes. A credible information and data base will foster effective and defensible fisheries conservation and management measures. And to sustain aquaculture, its environmental impacts must be measured, understood and limited20.
c) Market – The improvement of market infrastructure and access will benefit the poor and create more sustainable outcomes. There will be creation of incentives for good practices and drive for new investment opportunities if there is heavy investment in market demand for sustainable seafood. Another critical step is to coordinate among investors, public funding agencies, and philanthropic donors to develop new deal structures that sequence or layer investments so that those with greater risk tolerance can begin to engage with fisheries21.
d) Finance - To reduce risk and ensure the development of bankable investments, there must be improved governance and incentives that align natural capital with investment capital, and secure returnable finance that will contribute significantly to the growth of blue economy. For more sustainable fisheries, especially at the global level, there is need to increase the number of potential investors that will support social and environmental impacts22.


1) A Sustainable Blue economy is a marine-based economy that;

- Provides social and economic benefits for current and future generations
- Restores, protects and maintains the diversity, productivity, resilience, core functions and intrinsic value of marine ecosystem
- Is based on clean technologies, renewable energy and circular material flows23

2) A Sustainable Blue economy is governed by public and private processes that are;

- Inclusive
- Well-informed, precautionary and adaptive
- Accountable and transparent
- Holistic, cross-sectorial and long term
- Innovative and proactive24

3) To create a Sustainable Blue economy, public and private actors must;

- Set clear, measurable and internally consistent goals and target for a sustainable Blue economy
- Assess and communicate their performance on these goals and targets
- Create a level economic and legislative playing field that provides the Blue economy with adequate incentives and rules
- Plan, manage and effectively govern the use of marine space and resources, applying inclusive methods and ecosystem approach
- Develop and apply standards, guidelines and best practices
- Recognize that the maritime and land-based economies are interlinked and that many of the threats facing marine environments originate on land
- Actively cooperate in sharing information, knowledge, best practices, lessons learned, perspective and ideas to realize a sustainable and prosperous future for all25.


The distinction in the use of color reference when describing the ecosystems is that “Blue” refers to the marine ecosystem, while “Green” refers to the terrestrial ecosystem. The Green Economy was first initiated in 2012 at the Rio+20 world summit, where the United Nations described the Green Economy as the type of economy beyond terrestrial that “should contribute to eradicating poverty, sustain economic growth, enhance social inclusion, improve human welfare and create new opportunities for employment and decent work for all, while maintaining the healthy functioning of the earth’s ecosystems”26.

The Green Economy refers to renewable energy, clean transportation, water management, waste management, natural resource management and sustainability. Blue economy is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improve livelihoods and preserve the health of ocean ecosystem. On the one hand, Green economy aims at reducing environmental risk, ecological scarcities and sustainable development without degrading the environment. While the Green Economy is more about renewable energy, the Blue Economy focuses more on ocean and its products on the other hand. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Green Economy is one that results in “improved human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks”27. The UNEP and other international organizations extract blue economy from green economy. They encourage the tackling of climate change through low-carbon and resource-efficient shipping, fishing, marine tourism, and marine renewable energy industries. Blue economy is seen as an integration of sustainable development and green growth.


1 S. Godfrey, ‘ Defining the Blue Economy’. > Accessed 12/1/2020

2 World Bank and United Nations, ‘ The potential of Blue Economy’. > Accessed 12/1/2020

3 AfricaNews, ‘ Importance of a Sustainable Blue Economy: Statistics and Facts’. > Accessed 5/1/2020

4 European Union, ‘ The 2018 Annual Economic Report on EU Blue Economy’. > Accessed 5/1/2020

5 The Blue Economy The CommonWealth . Accessed 6/1/2020

6 > Accessed 6/1/2020

7 Sustainable Development Commission <> Accessed 6/1/2020

8 United Nations Environment Programme, ‘ Blue Economy: Sharing Success Stories to Inspire Change’.<> Accessed 11/1/2020

9 The World Bank, ‘ The World Bank’s Blue Economy Program and PROBLUE: Supporting Integrated and Sustainable Economic Development in Healthy Oceans’. > Accessed 11/1/2020

10 B. Ankomah, ‘ Africa’s Blue Economy ’ <>Accesed 20/01/2020

11 Ibid

12 United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, ‘ Africa's Blue Economy: A policy handbook ’ <> Accessed 15/06/2020

13 Ibid

14 Ibid

15 Articles 71 and 81 of UNCLOS 1982

16 Ships and ports, ‘ Blue Economy Legal and Institutional Frameworks: The Nigerian Challenge;. <>Accessed18/01/2020

17 n12 p9

18 n27

19 World Bank Group, ‘ Oceans 2030 Financing the Blue Economy for Sustainable Development’. <> Accessed 30/10/2020

20 Ibid

21 Ibid

22 Ibid

23 World Bank Group and United Nations, ‘ THE POTENTIAL OF THE BLUE ECONOMY: Increasing Long-term Benefits of the Sustainable Use of Marine Resources for Small Island Developing States and Coastal Least Developed Countries’. < Accessed 1/11/2020

24 Ibid

25 WWF, ‘ Principles For a Sustainable Blue Economy’. > Accessed 12/1/2020

26 C. Claudio, ‘ From Green to Blue Economy’. <> Accessed 6/10/2020

27 CommonWealth Foundation, ‘ Small States and the Green and Blue Economy <> Accessed 6/10/2020

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Blue Economy. The new frontier for marine environmental protection and sustainable development
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Blue Economy, Sustainable development, Environmental protection, Nigeria
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Ekemeabasi Essen (Author), 2020, Blue Economy. The new frontier for marine environmental protection and sustainable development, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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