Global leaders, academics and development experts think the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be possible if governments fail to serve the marginal coastal people's interests through the Blue Economy. They state that coastal communities are the most impacted by climate change, including sea level rise, storms, floods, precipitation and of course, acidification in the ocean that causes seafood depletion and pose huge threats to the life and livelihood of these poor communities.
According to the definition of the United Nations, Blue Economy is an economy that "comprises a range of economic sectors and related policies that together determine whether the use of ocean resources is sustainable." Talking with The Daily Observer, Manuel Barange, Director of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' (FAO) Fisheries and Aquaculture division, explained that the quantity of ocean resources stocks including fishes, crabs, seaweeds and other sources of food opportunities are gradually reducing due to global warming and acidification in the ocean.
"Many people are losing jobs and are being forced to migrate to the slums of different urban cities. Government, the private sector, donors and other stakeholders, all need to work together to create some opportunities to improve their livelihoods through the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth."
He made this comment on the sidelines of a Press Briefing to launch the latest UN report 'The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture-Towards Blue Transformation' that took place at the Press Briefing Room on Wednesday. Referring to the report, he noted that it gives special focus to sustainability, because this reflects a number of specific considerations related to Sustainable Development Goal 14.
"Efforts should be made for fisheries and aquaculture to have a positive impact on the poor and marginalized communities. For example, we introduced different interventions including solutions across food value chains, sectoral and cross-sectoral policy briefs, advice on planting and harvesting plans especially for coastal women who were not able to catch fish in the river and ocean during the pandemic," he added.
Kaleb Udui, a community leader and an ocean ecology preservation campaigner from Palau, (one of the Pacific small island developing states), said that the respective governments from each country must take the initiative to ensure economic and health support to vulnerable coastal communities. "Governments and private organizations should adopt some projects through the Blue Economy for local people whose livelihoods have been affected due to oceanic pollution and overfishing. For example, introducing tourism, and giving special focus to local culture," he said while talking with this correspondent.
According to Cristina Pita, Principal Researcher, Inclusive Blue Economy Lead, at the International Institute for Environment and Development, every government must have some specific commitments to address vulnerable groups who live in coastal areas.
"I think the most important way to ensure coastal people's involvement is to protect coastal fishing by halting commercial overfishing and preventing marine pollution," she said.
Referring to SDG14, 'Life Below Water', Pita said that SDGs are interlinked with each other. "Sustainability means we have to ensure inclusiveness. If we ignore this marginal community, then implementing SDG14 and its target to conserve and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources for sustainable development will not be possible," she said.
Dr. K.M. Azam Chowdhury, Chairman, Department of Oceanography, Faculty of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Dhaka University, suggested countries adopt a blue bond mechanism, to give loans to local people to support investment in healthy oceans. He remarked that the government should provide these facilities to the coastal poor, including honey collectors, forest-dependent people, fishers and many others.
"For example, in coastal areas of Bangladesh, if the local men and women get these loans they can bring sustainable development both for themselves and also for ocean ecology and biodiversity. Women can start mangrove plantation on the seashore or river bed, [they can practice] saline-prone or alternative cropping cultivation, adopt sustainable businesses such as shell cultivation in the seashore."
He also noted that they are planning to conduct research in offshore areas of Bangladesh to explore the potential benefits of 47 islands and develop a project for each island to benefit local communities, he told The Daily Observer.
Zobaidur Rahman, Bangladesh editor at The Third Pole, emphasized the importance of resources and policy intervention, and said that the concept of Blue Economy is new in Bangladesh. As a new avenue to explore, Bangladesh will need to depend on the knowledge and experience of the local communities, he said.
He suggested the introduction of local eco-tourism and building up infrastructure industries in the Bay of Bengal where local communities could be trained and employed. He also suggested that as a delta nation Bangladesh needs to conduct research and learn from its neighboring countries such as Myanmar, Vietnam and other archipelagic states.
Abdullah Al Mamun, Deputy Director of the Department of Environment, said that there are lots of opportunities for Bangladesh with regards to marine resources in different geographical locations. "As a delta nation, our maritime territory has been expanded. So we have to harness more ocean resources to increase benefits," Mamun said. He pointed out that the Bangladesh government decided to explore the opportunities to harvest resources from the vast water of the Bay of Bengal by recognizing the Blue Economy in the Delta Plan and various stakeholders are working to explore the prospect of it to ensure inclusiveness.
"As part of this vision in Cox's Bazar the government has planned to work with local communities to harvest sea shells and seaweed in the Bay of Bengal," he said.
Multi-dimensional plans will be included under as part of the Blue Economy initiative to engage local communities with the vision of eradicating extreme poverty by 2041 and gaining the status of an Upper Middle Income Country by 2030, he added.
This story was produced as part of the 2022 UN Ocean Conference Fellowship organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch). It was originally published in The Daily Observer on 1 July 2022 and has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Banner image: The delta nation is very prone to flooding / Credit: Direct Relief via Flickr.