Lessons from history for today's blue growth agendas

“Blue growth" is an emerging concept in national and international marine policy. Akin to the 'green economy' but for the oceans, current blue growth agendas aim to maintain and expand the benefits we derive from the seas in a balanced, integrated, and equitable way. Yet, there has been little work on evaluating whether strategies for blue growth will be successful, and the concept is often promoted as a novel way forward for ocean management.

​At a meeting of the Working Group on the History of Fish and Fisheries (WGHIST), we wondered, is blue growth indeed new? As an interdisciplinary collaboration of ecologists, biologists, historians, and fisheries scientists, we knew that many concepts, from spawning closures to ecosystem-based approaches, may have new names, but would be recognizable to fishing communities and managers in the past. How people previously attempted these strategies holds critical insight that can be useful not only for assessing our current ecosystems and providing deeper baselines, but also for management and policy in terms what worked, what did not, and why. We wondered if this would also be the case for blue growth.

Investigating the past for historical blue growth
To look for blue growth in our history, we first established a consistent definition of what we meant by blue growth, given that its definition can vary across locations and organizations. For this, we turned to the well-established blue growth agendas of the European Union (EU) and the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), determining four pillars to exemplify blue growth: (1) achieving growth of marine economies while minimizing impacts, (2) achieving and maintaining balance across ocean resource use, equitable access, efficient supply chains, and ecological well-being, (3) implementing smart solutions via human innovation, and (4) achieving integration across sectors, regions, and stakeholders.

Our second step was to determine if blue growth is new, or if it had occurred in the past. With the defined blue growth pillars in mind, our team of close to 30 researchers looked to their own research to determine case studies that met at least two or more of these criteria. This case study approach conclusively demonstrated to us that blue growth was not novel. We identified 20 historical fisheries or aquaculture examples from 13 countries, spanning the 40–800 years, which we contend embody blue growth concepts. From the Lagoon of Venice to nori aquaculture in Japan and the dugong fisheries of Australia, blue growth has been achieved, maintained - and lost - in the past.


The full article can be found at ices.dk