The coming blue wave
There’s a blue wave coming. It’s not the kind of blue wave that political pollsters talk about, although politics is and will continue to be heavily involved. Besides, it covers far more territory than what you’re used to seeing on an electoral map. We’re actually talking about more than two-thirds of Earth’s surface. It represents a $1.5-trillion industry employing nearly 100 million people that is expected to double in size by the end of the decade. And it goes far beyond money. In fact, this precious resource generates more than half the oxygen in the atmosphere. Introducing … the blue economy.
As KMers, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest tech craze du jour: AI/ML, robotics, blockchain, CRISPR gene editing, 3D printing of living tissue, and the like. But often the greatest opportunities come from applying breakthrough technologies to old, slow-moving sectors, such as fishing. And deep beneath the surface of this expansive realm lies a seemingly endless supply of minerals, energy, and, of course, water itself. The scale is massive: More than 150 countries have a shoreline with direct access to the open seas. This is a complex ecosystem directly impacting a much larger and even more complex ecosystem, i.e., the entire planet.
When it comes to oceans, seas, rivers, and other large bodies of water, there are no shortage of problems. These include waste and pollution (more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year), along with the continued extraction of many different types of marine resources at unsustainable levels. According to the World Bank, more than one-third of the ocean’s resources are being harvested at rates beyond their replenishment capacity. And that doesn’t include the estimated 26 million tons of fish caught illegally or outside established treaties and boundaries.
It should come as no surprise that topping the list of requirements to create and sustain a vibrant blue economy as outlined in various statements by the World Bank Group (WBG), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and others are our favorite functions of an enterprise of the future: innovation, learning, and collaboration. In a recent report entitled “The Potential of the Blue Economy,” the WBG stated, “In order to become actionable, the blue economy concept must be supported by a trusted and diversified knowledge base, and complemented with management and development resources that help inspire and support innovation.”
Similarly, according to an earlier report by the WWF, creating a sustainable blue economy means that both public and private organizations must “actively cooperate, sharing information, knowledge, best practices, lessons learned, perspectives, and ideas, to realize a sustainable and prosperous future for all.”
A good place to start is fishing, which is as old as the human race itself. The good news is that a vast body of knowledge, accumulated over many millennia, already exists about fishing. The bad news is that even today, large portions of that knowledge are local, even tribal. That may have worked centuries ago when much of the world’s population was relatively isolated. But not in today’s tightly coupled global economy.