6 Mar 2019 - For centuries, we have thought of the ocean as unimaginably vast and unchangeable, as a sea of opportunity, spawning fishing fleets and shipping lines, building the wealth of maritime nations. The ocean fundamentally underpins the populations and food of many coastal and island states, and always has done.
But seas are not limitless, and nor are their resources. We cannot extract all the fish and dump our waste at sea with impunity. The ocean cannot mop up the atmosphere's CO2 without consequences for its own health – and ours.
The rush towards ocean exploitation continues, be it deep-sea mining, or capitalising on blue carbon and new biotechnology opportunities. The water seems deep and inviting to many, and innovation in marine industries abounds. Some of the world's leading marine innovators, entrepreneurs and decision-makers are gathering at this week's World Ocean Summit in Abu Dhabi to discuss this sea of opportunity, this chance to create a "Blue Economy."
So what is a Blue Economy? Is it a vision of the future where humans take more from the ocean than they do now? Is it a way of ensuring that the food and money derived from the ocean are shared more equally? Is it a set of principles that guide the decisions of our governments and leaders of industry? In a sense, Blue Economy is all of these things, but it is precisely this range of definitions that represents both an opportunity and a risk to marine biodiversity.
Photo credit: Fauna & Flora International