Can the Caribbean use the ocean to alleviate poverty while protecting its fragile ecosystems?

The ocean, which covers roughly 70% of the Earth's surface, provides us with an abundance of resources. The World Bank defines the ocean economy, also known as the "Blue Economy," as "the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem." To name a few established industries in the blue economy, there are fisheries, tourism, maritime transport, offshore renewable energy, and aquaculture.

One of the most serious issues confronting the Caribbean region in the aftermath of the pandemic is the loss of livelihoods and jobs. Furthermore, small island developing states like ours face numerous challenges to sustainable development, such as small populations, limited resources, vulnerability to natural disasters and external shocks, and a strong reliance on international trade. Given that our oceans are nearing a tipping point on a number of fronts, from overfishing and marine pollution to coastal erosion exacerbated by climate change, can the blue economy be one of the paths to long-term recovery and growth?

Despite their small land mass, the Caribbean territories are surrounded by vast oceanic areas. Caribbean countries have jurisdiction over vast ocean areas that, in many cases, far outnumber the countries' own land area. The Bahamas' exclusive economic zone, for example, is estimated to be 242,970 square miles, compared to its land area of 5,383 square miles, whereas St. Vincent and the Grenadines' is estimated to be around 13,900 square miles, more than 90 times its land area. In the case of St. Kitts and Nevis, the ocean area is nearly 7,900 square miles, despite the fact that the land area is only 100 square miles. The Caribbean countries may be able to rely on the sea as a lifeline. The paradigm shift from small island developing states to large ocean developing states has begun, with the blue economy at the epicenter of the Eastern Caribbean's sustainable wealth creation.

It makes sense for a region surrounded by water to use its resources sustainably for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and job creation. The development of fisheries and aquaculture, coastal tourism, the potential use of seabed resources, and potential sources of renewable energy are some of the areas where the Caribbean region can look for a sustainable ocean-based economy.

With climate change posing an existential threat to the region, preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem is a matter of life and death. Sustainable development entails economic development that is both inclusive and environmentally sound; it must be carried out in a way that does not deplete the natural resources on which societies rely in the long run. To be a key component of the Caribbean's success in the blue economy, the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of the ocean's resources must be balanced.

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