Imagine our country being on the verge of a second Industrial Revolution – an economic boom so powerful that it alters the United States economy – and the world’s – forever.
This is the picture Dr. Doug McCauley (Assistant Professor, Marine Science Institute, University of California Santa Barbara) painted at the beginning of a congressional briefing, hosted by COMPASS, entitled “Counting on Ocean Benefits: A science briefing on the links between the ocean, our economy, and human well-being.” Dr. McCauley and the other panelists outlined a fascinating and prosperous future for our ocean economy, which, if done correctly, will include sustainability and will preserve the intrinsic value of the ocean. Advanced marine technology and an infinite supply of data have created brand new fields and enhanced existing ones. At the briefing, some of the more notable industries discussed included aquaculture, energy, resource mining, and fisheries.
Panelists described the clear value, both monetary and nonmonetary, of the ocean. Dr. Robert Brumbaugh (Director of Ocean Planning and Protection, Global Oceans Team) explained how he calculates where the value of the ocean lies in the economy, from tourism to oyster fisheries, to answer the societal question “How much is enough?” regarding ocean management. Understanding the economic value of particular industries, and even specific reefs, helps shape conservation efforts and business plans. Dr. Kelly Biedenweg (Assistant Professor of Human Dimensions, Oregon State University) approaches the ocean economy by studying the nonmonetary benefits of the ocean to human well-being. She detailed the difficult to calculate benefits to a coastal community, such as food quality, outdoor activities, social relationships, and having a sense of place. With the coastal population expected to rise from 39 percent to 47 percent by 2020, it may be wise to further explore these types of benefits and to consider them in economic valuations of the ocean and coasts.
While ocean opportunities are rich in potential, panelists agreed on the importance of sustainable management. Dr. Christopher Costello (Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics, University of California Santa Barbara) pointed out the United States’ leadership in fisheries management –only nine percent of U.S. stocks are currently considered overfished compared to 65 percent of global fisheries. His statement that “conservation drives the fishery economy” holds true for other up-and-coming ocean industries, especially aquaculture. Dr. McCauley outlined the need for smart ocean planning, long-range forecasting tools, and an investment in science for this blue future to happen responsibly.
Looking forward, panelists offered insight for expanding our “blue economy.” Dr. Eli Fenichel (Assistant Professor, Yale University) posed Congress must create policies that ensure simpler management of natural resources. This includes the concept of a “marine capital account,” which “can make invisible tradeoffs visible and provide an honest system of accounting.” Other panelists acknowledged the importance of integrating new technology, funding research, smart policymaking, community-level involvement, and big data as key factors in sustainable economic growth. Approaching a new ocean economy with the long-term ability to use the resource will be a challenge, but with proper research and guidance, certainly not impossible.