Why blue growth is a worthy investment

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This week, I am one of some 500 delegates at the Global Ocean Action Summit for Food Security and Blue Growth. That’s a mouthful. But among all those words, one stands out: action. We are policymakers, investors and marine scientists; collectively, we have the power, resources and knowledge to restore ocean health. Now we must stop talking, and start doing.

A fisherman casts his net on the coast at sunset Gabon     ©Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon

A fisherman casts his net on the coast at sunset Gabon                                                        ©Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon

First, we need to get our finances in order. As things stand, we are failing to invest sufficiently in the very natural capital that underpins the global economy.

I have heard again and again this week that investors recognize the value of oceans. They are ready to back projects that offer a return on investment. But they need assurance that the assets the ocean provides will be there for the long term.

Right now, the prospectus we are giving them is not good. Smart money doesn’t invest in a resource in decline. We are failing to seize the opportunity to unlock trillions of dollars in investment because we are eroding our natural capital – we’re trading long-term prosperity for short-term gain. But we can turn the tide. Many ocean resources are renewable, if well managed. Through ecosystem restoration and protection, we can create an asset worthy of investment – one that will pay dividends in jobs and food security for future generations.

So, we know we’re leaving money on the table. What’s worse, we’re actually squandering billions through perverse subsidies. These tax dollars are, for example, supporting massive over-capacity in the global fishing fleet. WWF calls for this money to be redirected within the next five years to support effective and sustainable oceans management. This really is a no-brainer. The money is in the system, it’s just badly mis-allocated.

Whale shark. Indo-pacific Ocean  ©Jürgen Freund / WWF-CanonWhale shark. Indo-pacific Ocean                                                          ©Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon

More immediately, I am pleased to see strong commitment to ocean health through the process to finalize the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. I believe that such a shared, global goal will catalyze collective action on an unprecedented scale. Many participants, including key governments such as the United States, are outspoken in the support of a stand-alone goal that recognizes the vital role oceans play in human well-being.

While this summit is an opportunity for new partnerships and commitments, it’s also a moment to push for progress on promises made, but not kept. Through the Convention on Biological Diversity, nations pledged to protect 10 per cent of the ocean – creating places where marine life can thrive, thereby ensuring the long-term viability of diverse species. But today only about 2 per cent of the ocean is protected.

No one at this summit disputes the dire state of our ocean, and yet we’ve heard few concrete commitments so far to conserve and restore ecosystems. At a minimum, WWF calls for governments to deliver on the commitments they have already made. We’re not talking about shifting a couple million dollars or designating areas “protected” in name only. We’re calling for fundamental reform of the way governments and the private sector view and invest in the ocean’s natural capital.

For our part, WWF pledges to continue to champion and convene strong new partnerships that can deliver on all this dialogue. We have examples from around the world of how to manage and use ocean resources sustainably. These projects can be multiplied to deliver on the themes of this summit – food security and blue growth – but only if we take action now.

By John Tanzer, Marine Director at WWF International

John Tanzer

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