Mexico needs more boost to the blue economy

Countries with large coastlines, such as Mexico, can opt for the development model called the blue economy to address negative impacts on the environment, taking sustainable advantage of the ocean.

Countries with large coastlines, such as Mexico, can opt for the blue economy development model and make sustainable use of the ocean. Photo: Courtesy of the researcher.
Countries with large coastlines, such as Mexico, can opt for the blue economy development model and make sustainable use of the ocean. Photo: Courtesy of the researcher.

The world's population will grow from 7 to 9.6 billion people by 2050, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). With two-thirds of the population living in the coastal strip, and with malnutrition reaching 800 million people, the first challenge facing humanity will be to feed the planet's population without extinguishing marine resources.

According to FAO, in per capita terms, edible fish consumption has increased from 9 kilograms (kg) in 1961 to 20.2 kg in 2015, at an average rate of about 1.5% per year. Preliminary estimates for 2016 and 2017 point to a further increase to about 20.3 kg and 20.5 kg, respectively.

According to the organization's assessment of the effects of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture, the primary production of the world's oceans is projected to decline by 6 percent by 2100 and by 11 percent in the tropics.

In different models, it is predicted that by 2050, the total global fish catch potential may vary by less than 10%, depending on the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions, but with very significant geographic variability. While the effects will be mostly negative in many tropical regions dependent on fisheries, opportunities will also exist in temperate regions.

Blue economy

"Faced with this scenario, countries with large coastlines, such as Mexico, can opt for the development model called blue economy to address negative impacts on the environment, taking sustainable advantage of the ocean, and developing based on their resources the main productive activities of developing countries and regions with vast coastlines," said Antonina Ivanova Boncheva, researcher at the Economics Department of the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, in an interview.

Mexico has much potential to boost and develop the blue economy. According to the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) of the country's 32 states, 17 have a total of 11,122 km of coastline, excluding the island territory. The 68% of the continental coast is on coasts and islands of the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California and 32% on coasts, islands and keys of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

"And it is in the coastal areas of the country where each year the effects of climate change can be observed, some fishing resources move further north and leave some fishing communities without the amounts they captured in previous times, so it is very important to promote sustainable activities indicated by the blue economy, which directly involve the communities. The alternative to traditional fishing and river fishing could be aquaculture or mariculture, activities that could be carried out in the fishing areas to maintain the standard of living of the communities," she said.

Another activity is alternative tourism such as whale watching (primarily gray, but also humpback and blue), diving, snorkeling, kayaking, activities that could be environmentally friendly and provide income to coastal communities.

According to Ivanova Boncheva, the country's challenges in developing the blue economy have to do with directing funding to the communities, which must have broad participation. It is necessary to promote a planning model to develop these activities in coastal areas, with a collaboration of the three levels of government and civil society organizations, who must receive adequate funding and training.

"One activity that is being strongly encouraged and implemented in Campeche, Veracruz, and Baja California Sur is the reforestation and maintenance of mangroves, which contribute to protecting the coast from erosion and stop the impacts of sea level rise. Just 1 hectare of mangrove forest can retain up to 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Their role in the fight against climate change is superior to that of exuberant species of tropical savannah trees, tall trees of tropical dry forests, even leafy rainforests.

Antonina Ivanova, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who wrote the chapter "Economics and Governance" for the Meeting on the Scope of the IPCC Special Report on Climate, held in December 2016, concluded that this type of activities are very apt to access new forms of financing from international organizations related to the Sustainable Development Goals, Agenda 2030 and the Green Climate Funds.

In this sense, she mentioned that there are economic resources from the Inter-American Development Bank, Regional Banks, programs in the United Nations for the environment and other international funds that directly finance municipal governments.

Finally, she stressed that "communities do not have to be the object of political impositions at some level of government, but they have to be involved from the beginning of the planning of their activities, consult on the many successful examples and adopt the practices that best suit them, so they will develop a sustainable blue economy.

The core of the blue economy model is to decouple socio-economic development from environmental degradation. To achieve this objective, the approach of this type of economy is based on the evaluation and incorporation of the real value of natural (blue) capital within all aspects of economic activity (conceptualization, planning, infrastructure, trade, tourism, use of natural resources, generation and consumption of energy). This includes ecological considerations regarding the use of local resources and the use, as far as possible, of low energy "blue" options, thus moving away from the "brown" scenario of high energy use, low job creation and development model based on industrialization.

By Mexicanist Source Agencies