The Blue Economy — a marriage between sustainable development and green growth — has huge potential benefits, especially for the Caribbean, a region known for its seas. For small island nations, the ocean provides resources and offers a rich set of opportunities for sustainable and equitable development that benefit communities and local economies. By World Bank’s estimates, the value of the ocean economy in the Caribbean is around US$407 billion. Today, momentum is building behind efforts to realize this uncharted, Caribbean Blue Economy promise.
Looking to support sustainable Blue Economy initiatives and government efforts in the Caribbean, the Inter-American Development Bank turned to a coalition among Future of Fish, Economic Transformation Group, and the World Ocean Council to identify trends in technology and innovation in the Blue Economy, and map those opportunities to the Caribbean context. Bringing our expertise in pattern-finding, FoF supported the team to identify promising emergent and existing Blue Economy opportunity areas throughout the region. These areas point to where energy and resources can be focused to accelerate and maximize success of projects that uplift communities, improve local economies, and preserve and protect the ocean ecosystem upon which all these innovations depend.
This kind of future-looking opportunities research is in our DNA: from our early days, Future of Fish has been oriented towards innovation, systemic trends, and sniffing out the entrepreneurs and visionaries working to grow their field and support their communities. Adapting our traditional Discovery approach to include a foresighting analysis, we did a high-level scan of the current state and momentum within mature and more nascent Blue Economy sectors from fishing (of course!) to tourism to marine products to offshore energy production.
With these opportunity areas charted we were ready to dive into what we love best: talking to people on the ground, learning from experts, and gleaning insights from the people already doing the work. This revealed potential barriers and found areas where conditions and interests align for Blue Economy initiatives to launch and grow. Of course, 2020 had other ideas. The pandemic kept us grounded, while contacts and allies in governments and industry around the Caribbean had their plates full and their attention fixed (understandably!) on executing timely responses to the present situation. Undeterred, we pivoted to phone calls and remote research, speaking to a range of experts to find out where exciting new models and innovation are emerging within the Caribbean and where barriers are blocking progress.
As always, our findings were clear: that oceans are about more than just fish. If you want to have thriving oceans you also need thriving communities, diversified industry, which requires a “just” Blue Economy that’s truly blue — this means equitable access to economic benefit for local communities, and one where economic activities help build ocean environmental sustainability and resiliency. We’re excited about the final report, which lays out a set of action plans for the kinds of policies that companies and governments could make to help advance a thriving and just Caribbean Blue Economy. By unlocking change and building economic opportunities that center equity and resilience, we can work together to elevate communities and environmental success across industries and across regions.