“We will not save the ocean through conservation alone, to save the ocean we must change the economy. And to change the economy, we need the ocean.”
Oceano Azul Foundation
The ocean is critical to the health and well-being of people and planet, and yet is consistently given peripheral importance in multilateral, international decision-making. While the global agendas of climate and biodiversity have respectively seen progress through the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the recent 2022 Global Biodiversity Framework, the ocean still lacks its own holistic decision-making process. As a consequence, an international commitment for global ocean health is absent and ocean issues are reduced to side notes of the climate and biodiversity agendas.
Fundamentally, the ocean is still not seen as the source of climate and biodiversity solutions that it is. The issues of the ocean are seen as issues for the ocean, and not issues for the planet. In other words, though some progress has been made, ocean decision-making is being procrastinated, with ocean health in measurable decline.
The much-delayed UN Ocean Conference 2022, in Lisbon, gathered governments and civil society to reflect upon the progress of SDG14, however, owing to SDG14 being the least funded of the 17 SDGs, it is clear that the measurable impact of actions such as these is limited. Hence, the announcement of a third UN Ocean Conference, to be hosted by France and Costa Rica in Nice, in 2025, presents the next great opportunity to finally go beyond and above a business-as-usual reportage of “patchy” progress, and create the necessary commitments and structures for more engaged and holistic political action on ocean issues.
The international community, starting with the United Nations system, has failed to take decisions that that the ocean crisis demands, and lacks the level of urgency that is required. Nice in 2025 will, thus, be a critical time for concerted ocean action.
In such a context of an ocean in crisis, for Oceano Azul Foundation marine nature conservation and restoration should be part of the new, blue decarb economy, where conservation efforts must be understood as investments instead of costs. The Foundation has therefore dedicated itself to developing and scaling up both market-based and nature-based solutions for a sustainable ocean economy.
A new sustainable blue economy needs blue frameworks that will catalyse future investments through institutional, legal and economic structures. Frameworks that attribute market value to the positive externalities of conservation efforts, such as marine protected areas (MPAs). Frameworks, such as these, will furnish conservation efforts with the tools needed to make themselves self-sustaining and thus, long-lasting.
It is crucial to place blue natural capital valuation as the basis of such a new economic development model, which has the potential of generating economic value, through the preservation and regeneration of marine biodiversity, that work as tangible assets, instead of a linear extractive model. The global economy needs a new economic model that decouples economic growth from natural resources, while ensuring the viability of innovative solutions that are carbon neutral and less harmful to the environment. The blue bioeconomy sector is essential to respond to this challenge as it has the potential to generate sustainable solutions to global problems while at the same time generating wealth and jobs from the ocean.
Oceano Azul Foundation focuses its efforts on supporting the emergence of new businesses working with marine bio resources, namely through the Blue Bio Value Programme. This programme accelerates start-ups working in the blue biotechnology sector and connects them with large economic groups and R&D centres. Blue Bio Value also works as a tech transfer programme, connecting Business Mentors with R&D projects in order to develop new market solutions. Such match making, combined with engagement from academic institutions to solve market problem and a unique and biodiverse ecosystem of marine biota, puts Portugal at the centre of an emerging blue bioeconomy sector
We cannot continue to ignore the role of the ocean in our geopolitical, geoeconomic, climate and biodiversity agendas. Indeed, at Oceano Azul Foundation we understand that we will not save the ocean through conservation alone, to save the ocean we must change the economy. And to change the economy, we need the ocean.