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Open Access The Importance of Understanding the Ocean's Economic Value for a Sustainable World

This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND licence.


A major paradigm shift is underway globally, a revolution in our relationship with the ocean. From cavalier exploitation of offshore resources spurred on by dreams of infinite wealth, nations now recognize a thriving ocean economy needs a healthy ocean. Past events brought global attention to the impressive rise in offshore revenue generated by the Blue Economy. In 2021, ocean values were estimated at $2.5 trillion annually (Sumaila et al., 2021). The advent of exclusive economic zones enhanced by technological innovations led to rapid increases in offshore commercial and industrial activities, accompanied unfortunately by mismanaged and overexploited resources. The resultant decline in ocean health from unsustainable practices, compounded by climate-related impacts, provided the momentum toward sustainable strategies for development, institutionalized by the 2016 United Nations (UN) Conference on Sustainable Development and the resultant Sustainable Development Goals.

National practices expanded categories of original estimates of ocean gross domestic product, formerly based solely on National Income Accounts to include environmental and non-market assets, revealing a more accurate net estimate of the ocean's values.

The New Blue Economy, or knowledge-based economy, has been in large part responsible for economists' ability to capture environmental and non-market values, allowing this paradigm shift toward a sustainable world to occur. The NBE generates the rapid pace of scientific discovery and technological innovations that facilitated those discoveries through advanced measurement and analytical tools. The latest UN declaration, the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, solidifies the future of this positive paradigm shift.

Keywords: New Blue Economy; balance between natural resource exploitation and environmental preservation; blue economy; ocean GDP; sustainability

Document Type: Commentary

Publication date: February 25, 2022

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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