The Blue Fix: What's driving blue growth?

Abstract

This article explores the politics behind the promise of ‘blue growth’. Reframing it as a ‘blue fix’, we argue that the blue growth discourse facilitates new opportunities for capital accumulation, while claiming that this accumulation is compatible with social and ecological aims as well. The blue fix is made up of three underlying sub-fixes. First of all, the conservation fix quenches the social thirst for action in the face of climate change. Here we see how protecting marine areas can be an important part of mitigating climate change, but in practice, gains at the national level are overshadowed by the ongoing expansion of offshore drilling for oil and gas. Second, the protein fix satisfies the growing global demand for healthy food and nutrition through the expansion of capital-intensive large-scale aquaculture, while ignoring the negative socio-ecological impacts, which effectively squeeze small-scale capture fishing out, while industrial capture fishing remains well positioned to expand into as well as supply industrial aquaculture with fish feed from pelagic fish. And third, an energy fix offers a burst of wind energy and a splash of new deep-sea minerals without disturbing the familiar and persistent foundation of oil and gas. This dimension of the blue fix emphasizes the transition to wind and solar energy, but meanwhile the deep sea mining for minerals required by these new technologies launches us into unknown ecological territories with little understood consequences. The synergy of these three elements brought together in a reframing of ocean politics manifests as a balancing act to frame blue growth as ‘sustainable’ and in everyone’s interest, which we critically analyze and discuss in this article.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    https://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/convention_historical_perspective.htm#Key%20provisions.

  2. 2.

    Data extracted from https://www.marineregions.org/.

  3. 3.

    For a critical review of the FAO Blue Growth Initiative see Barbesgaard (2018).

  4. 4.

    See for example: https://www.regjeringen.no/globalassets/departementene/nfd/dokumenter/strategier/w-0026-e-blue-opportunities_uu.pdf; https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/676bbd4a-7dd9-11e9-9f05-01aa75ed71a1/language-en/; https://theaseanpost.com/article/india-and-indonesia-are-growing-blue-economy; https://www.saeon.ac.za/enewsletter/archives/2016/october2016/doc04.

  5. 5.

    For a critique, see Lander, E. (2011). The Green Economy: The world in sheep’s clothing. Amsterdam: TNI. Available at: https://www.tni.org/files/download/green-economy.pdf.

  6. 6.

    Nautilus Minerals is a now defunct Canada-based deep-sea mining company that was at the forefront of the industry set to initiate production in Papua New Guinea’s EEZ in 2019. See Childs, this issue for further analysis of dynamics on the ground.

  7. 7.

    https://www.isa.org.jm/deep-seabed-minerals-contractors/overview.

  8. 8.

    Cook Islands, Federated State of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.

  9. 9.

    See for example: https://www.facebook.com/260321721336772/photos/d41d8cd9/260321968003414/; https://worldfishers.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/WFFP_GA6_REPORT.pdf (pg 36).

  10. 10.

    See for example: https://www.tni.org/en/article/our-oceans-need-a-different-approach;

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Brent, Z.W., Barbesgaard, M. & Pedersen, C. The Blue Fix: What's driving blue growth?. Sustain Sci 15, 31–43 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-019-00777-7

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Keywords

  • Blue growth
  • Blue economy
  • Marine protected areas
  • Aquaculture
  • Oil and gas
  • Deep sea mining