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The coming blue wave

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Leading the way with knowledge-sharing

The World Bank aims to break down these barriers, leading the way with knowledge-sharing and human capital-intensive projects totaling over $5.6 billion. One such project is aimed at improving ecological and economic resilience for the 17 nations comprising the West Africa Coastal Areas (WACA). There, fish accounts for up to 60% of the population’s total protein intake. In addition to arranging and facilitating investment financing and partnerships, the main approach, as stated in the project’s charter, is “to facilitate and increase access to knowledge, expertise, global good practices, and technical assistance.” The impacts have already been felt, including increased fish sizes, reduced toxicity, higher revenues, and improved livelihoods due to better quality and safety.

Bringing these developing countries into the blue economy means expanding their capacity for capturing, sharing, and growing knowledge spanning biology, climate, language, culture, economics, ethics, logistics, and many other interrelated disciplines. All of this requires timely access to, and analysis of, accurate and relevant data. And when new technologies such as genetic engineering enter the picture, the complexity, along with the risks, quickly ratchets up. This is why the WBG has placed increased emphasis on two areas in particular: evidence-based decision making and governance.

You can see where the hot technologies we mentioned earlier come into play, given the massive amounts of data and knowledge involved. Mobile technology plays a key role in real-time data collection and analysis, and fast, easy access to the resulting knowledge. In the background are data analytics, AI, and ML to support prediction, optimization, and de-confliction. Blockchain will likely become prominent in order to support accurate, incorruptible record-keeping. And visualization technologies, enabled by graph databases, will provide insights into and awareness of the “big picture” at all levels, from regulatory authorities to the individual workers aboard a fishing vessel, which is needed in this mother of all system of systems.

The need for governance

Governance is essential for many reasons, for example, defining roles, limits, and boundaries, along with taking corrective actions should any violations occur. This becomes increasingly important, especially given new technologies such as genetically modified seafood.

You’ve probably seen the news reports regarding the roughly 35 new species of “Frankenfish” produced by splicing genetic material from a wide range of unlikely organisms, including coral, mice, bacteria, and even humans. Regardless of whether you are for or against such practices, the genie is out of the bottle. Valid knowledge backed by accurate data and sound, rigorous analysis is needed in order to maximize the benefits while minimizing risks.

Where we’re headed

The city of San Diego provides an example of what’s possible when a concerted effort is made to strategically plan for sustained regional socioeconomic growth around a blue economy. The core elements have always been in place: a climate ideal for attracting residents and tourists, a vibrant port with existing infrastructure driven by a large U.S. Navy footprint, the longtime presence of major seafood companies such as Bumble Bee, universities to provide leading-edge research, and a highly educated workforce.

One company based there has successfully 3D printed yellowtail fish, only without the head, tail, and fins. Think about it. If you were going to 3D print a fish for dinner, much like the food replicators on Star Trek, you probably wouldn’t want to waste precious molecules forming a head, tail, and fins, which would only end up in a landfill anyway. Instead, you’d just print the fully filleted meat. That’s exactly what San Diego-based startup BlueNalu
is doing.

Other examples of data- and knowledge-driven innovation include ocean debris and contaminant removal, ecofriendly boat washing, smart marina management, sustainable seaweed aquaculture, sediment remediation, bio-enhancing shoreline armoring, and storm water monitoring—all of which are being devoted entirely to hatching startups aimed at growing San Diego’s blue economy. And this is only one of 26 blue economy incubators and accelerators based in North America.

As this rising blue wave gains momentum and grows in intensity, measurable benefits are being felt worldwide, especially in developing countries, as documented in more than 100 case studies. For example, the U.N. Environmental Program’s report, “Blue Economy: Sharing Success Stories to Inspire Change,” shows improvements such as increased biodiversity in the Seychelles, the combination of green energy sources with sustainable fishing in Barbados, an increased oyster harvest in the Gambia, and knowledge-sharing networks among 85 fishing villages in Madagascar, which is impacting the lives of over 60,000 people.

For KMers, as far as opportunities for future growth are concerned, this one runs as far and wide as the deep blue sea.

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