Spotlight on blue economy

In Namibia, a blue economy would include fisheries, marine mining, marine and coastal tourism, maritime transport and infrastructure.

25 June 2019 | Business

Key stakeholders met last week to begin work on shaping and finalising a blue economy policy, in an effort to ensure a framework to sustainably harness the social and economic benefits of Namibia's unique ocean and inland water resources.

At the opening of the public consultations on the policy in Windhoek last week, fisheries minister Bernhard Esau underlined that a blue economy must include three crucial pillars, namely environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and inclusion.

He said in Namibia, a blue economy would include a wide array of activities, namely fisheries, marine mining, marine and coastal tourism, maritime transport and coastal infrastructure such as ports, towns and coastal industries.

The Namibian government, through its Fifth National Fifth Development Plan (NDP5) goals, has committed itself to developing a blue economy policy in an inclusive way, and to institutionalising the implementation in all aspects of the marine economy.

“This is why today, we are commencing public consultations on the development of this policy, which must be people-driven,” Esau underlined.

As per the NDP5 blue economy goals, “by 2022 Namibia will have implemented a blue economy governance and management system that sustainably maximises economic benefits from marine resources and ensures equitable marine wealth distribution to all Namibians”.

According to the timeline of this goal, 2018/19 is set aside to develop a blue economy policy and regulatory framework.

As per the policy development roadmap, a similar consultation took place in Walvis Bay earlier last week, and following the Windhoek consultations, a draft policy will be circulated to the public and other stakeholders.

A final policy validation workshop is slated for tomorrow, when the proposed policy will be circulated for further input.

Blue overview

A Namibian research paper titled 'Towards a Blue Economy', released by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) last year, warned that globally there are “widespread concerns regarding the impact of human activity on the natural environment in coastal areas and the world's oceans”.

The report notes that while billions of people depend on ocean resources for food and income, these resources have “been callously exploited by humans for decades”.

Dietrich Remmert, the author of the paper, underlines that an “important difference between the term 'blue economy' and the idea of the traditional ocean economy is that the former emphasises that any economic development taking place within the ocean and coastal regions should do so in a way that is both environmentally sustainable and improves the wellbeing of coastal communities. In the report Namibia's unique coastal waters are highlighted as “one of the most productive ocean areas in the world”.

Moreover, the country is rich in minerals and many of these deposits are located in coastal areas, including uranium and diamonds.

The report warns, however, that Namibia's “ocean and marine life have not been well-protected in policy and law - particularly prior to independence”.

“While it is a contentious and disputed subject, there is evidence that at least some Namibian fish stocks are under pressure, if not overfished.”

Nevertheless, the report states that in many aspects, the country possess a “unique ocean and coastal economy that is based upon a sparsely populated coastline of large, protected national parks, abundant mineral and natural resources”.

Moreover, the report states it is “positive to observe that despite significant primary industry activity such as mining and fishing, large tracts of the coastal and ocean environment remain in overall good health”.

Namibia also boasts a fairly well-established governance framework for environmental protection and natural resource management.

These, and other factors, place Namibia's ocean and coastal economy in a “fairly well” position to actively drive a holistic blue economy vision, the report concludes.

Nevertheless, the paper identifies a number of challenges, which need to be tackled if a blue economy is to be successful.

Challenges include frustration among the business community with the slow pace of key policies and laws and a lack of clarity around conflicting mandates with regard to natural resource management among the key ministries tasked with governing Namibia's natural marine and coastal resources, and improving overall coordination and information-sharing.

Another problem is the issue of limited, scientific and other relevant environmental and economic data, which the paper describes as a “significant concern, given the importance attached to information when developing a comprehensive blue economy strategy or roadmap”.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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