In a wider environmental sense, we are bound to our oceans. Most of the oxygen we breathe is generated by the waters that cover our globe; they absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide and possess a massive presence on global tidal currents, which hold a pivotal role in regulating the climate.
Considering how prominent of a presence the oceans have on our earth and life in general, you would think that World Oceans Day would be older than its birth in 1992, and the UN would have officially addressed it before 2008.
The recognition from the UN I guess it's better late than never, but the international holiday has no doubt helped bring awareness to the issues plaguing the world’s oceans and I think we all know by now if we as humans fail to preserve the ocean, we will fail to preserve our species. No ocean, no life, no us.
That is why it is crucial to be informed and educated on what is going on in our aquatic backyard. So as we head into World Oceans Day, we want to highlight the dangers our oceans face and the sustainable solutions that are being developed so we can keep our oceans ticking.
Blue finance for the sustainability of ocean ecosystems
Besides the essential role it plays for the Earth’s equilibrium, the ocean is a true powerhouse in terms of economic value. The range of goods and services provided worldwide is conservatively estimated by the Boston Consulting Group at around $2.5 trillion each year, with global assets valued at more than $24 trillion.
Making it little wonder why a turning point towards building a sustainable future in terms of the ocean is the so-called ‘blue finance.‘ With investors and companies keeping their eye and their money on developing new innovative technologies and practices such as offshore wind farms, zero-carbon ship fuels, restoring coastal ecosystems to sequester carbon, and securing the livelihoods of local communities.
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But in comparison to other areas of sustainable development, ocean sustainability is facing many challenges and struggles when attracting business investment. This is reflected by the fact that the largest investments towards keeping the oceans healthy come from philanthropy and development aid. Unfortunately, businesses still don’t comprehend the risks of damaging such a valuable resource and the reward of shifting towards sustainable business.
“For investors in established sectors such as fisheries and shipping, the challenge is to redirect capital away from socially and environmentally harmful activities towards sustainable activities. For emerging sectors in the blue economy, such as marine conservation, the challenge is to attract private finance. This is not easy because nature-based activities are often seen as too small, too risky, and not offering an attractive return.”
– concludes the Economist in its last report.
IT, big data technologies, and a sustainable seafood fish population
The pragmatic use of the scientific method and the advancement of technology made it possible for us to gather more knowledge for the external world than ever. This phenomenon that revolutionized our worldview is best represented by the large databases we have at our disposal. Over the next decade, big data technologies will generate even more precise information about the ocean – something that is expected to be the key to the perseverance and sustainable use of ocean ecosystems.
Information technology is a cornerstone for the UN Decade of Ocean Science project, which is projected to kick off in 2021. The analytic methods available in the digital era can help us save the ocean from unsustainable activities while producing opportunities for the companies to benefit from increased efficiency and transparency along the way. Where these areas of technology come into play is with sustainable seafood and the fish population in general.
“Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is a major cause of the depletion of wild stocks. Aquaculture is over-reliant on wild-caught fish to feed those that are farmed...” which is stated in the previously mentioned Economist’s report.
Clearly, illegal fishing poses a massive danger to the health of the wild fish population. Thankfully, with recent developments in surveillance and product-tracing solutions, there is a good starting point to the beginning of the end of illegal fishing. Remote vehicles equipped with sensors can monitor the ocean 24/7 and set the alarm for the authorities when a change of conditions is being noticed.
The application of these technologies to monitoring protocols can help the authorities to produce more effective regulations of fisheries and thus reduce illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. This will result in a more sustainable seafood industry and a healthier ocean ecosystem.
Energy transition cleans up ocean freight
With the recent developments in the oil industry, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like the golden age of black gold is slowly coming to a definitive end, hopefully. Many reports, including Oslo-based Rystad energy’s, suggest that “the global energy market is on the brink of a major transition to cleaner sources of energy.”
This may be the best news for ocean sustainability since the Industrial Revolution, as well as a major challenge for the economies that hugely depend on ocean freight for shipping. How well we are going to respond to this challenge is largely determined by the work of innovators and what is going to be the next best thing once the energy transition in ocean freight is done.
To fully get rid of carbon in shipping by 2050, an investment in the range between $1.4 trillion and $1.9 trillion is needed, claims the Economist. These resources would go mostly for the fuel supply chain, developing low-carbon hydrogen, and ammonia. Sustainably produced hydrogen is likely to have many additional uses in a greener economy as well.
Offshore wind farms blowing energy systems away
Another promising transition into a sustainable energy source is offshore wind farms.
“The offshore wind might be the single biggest lever we can pull to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and grow the economy at the same time...” declares Elizabeth Turnbull Henry.
From being considered an expensive operation only a decade ago, the full switch from fossil fuels towards onshore and offshore wind nowadays seems like a matter of time. The numbers associated with offshore wind farms are staggering—6 gigawatts (GW) of turbines were installed in 2019, taking the global total to 29GW. The industry is now targeting 190GW by 2030.
The actualization of onshore and offshore wind farms is mainly due to our long-term imperative to decarbonize energy systems. However, those solutions offer a whole range of rational benefits, available right now.
First of all, the technologies these energy systems use are proven. It drives local economic growth and it can safely coexist with other ocean uses we value. The best part? It is a lot cheaper than energy produced using fossil fuels. And, it is a lot cheaper than it was already.
“It is 80% cheaper today to harness energy from the wind than it was 10 years ago and since this trend continues…the price of it is continuing to fall,” claims Henry.
Offshore wind has many tangible benefits in comparison to onshore wind, with one of them surely being cutting out the competition for land use. Other benefits, like easier transportation and fewer infrastructure constraints, also play an important part.
However, probably the single most exciting thing about it is its potential to be integrated with other developing industries, such as green hydrogen manufacturing.
At the same time, other energy generation and energy management systems have emerged, such as wave and tidal stream energy. The main challenge here is to reduce the technology costs so they can reasonably compete with other renewable-energy technologies.
What is ecotourism
Ecotourism is an industry model designed for tourists to explore natural and often endangered habitats, while promoting conservation and responsible travel. This sustainability ideal is a hot topic for prosperity and longevity of a sector that is vital for many countries that rely on it – tourism.
At the same time, tourism is one of the industries that is directly susceptible to climate change and damaging environmental practices. The ongoing coastal developments endangers habitats, including mangroves and coral reefs.
Tourists cause litter, noise, and water contamination (mainly from sunblock products) while cruise ships emit air pollutants and greenhouse gases. All these factors drive the industry participants towards increased awareness and more responsibility.
Blue finance leading the charge for ocean cleanup
“By 2050 there could be a larger tonnage of plastic than fish in the ocean...” warn the latest reports from Economist.
In 2015, an estimation has been made that 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste sits in the ocean, with only 9% of it being recycled and most of it finding its way into our oceans, hence why the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch exists.
The most powerful tool in overcoming our problem with plastic and starting an ocean cleanup is awareness. The single-use of plastic goods must be reduced dramatically in the next decade and in order to protect the ocean and the wildlife living inside, a circular economy for plastic is needed.
A model of behavior that will put an end to its unnecessary use and would implement effective waste management. Part of the solution is in the processing and manufacturing areas, the two most attractive spheres of interest for investors, as they offer scaling and relatively low risk. Coordinating waste-collection efforts is an opportunity and an open call to IT innovations and developers of digital platforms worldwide.
“In addition to effective waste management, reducing the amount of plastic produced in the first place is critical. Businesses must fundamentally rethink how they deliver products to consumers and enable reuse...” – Economist’s report.
However, there are companies out there leading the blue finance charge in ocean cleanup and are ready to tackle the big issues in ocean sustainability. Blue Innovation is at the very core of most of the solutions in overcoming major problems, such as overfishing, plastic pollution, and the overall reduction of the coral reef and aquatic life.
They are an organization that creates symposium events in order to foster connections between marine technology companies globally in hopes to fuel a sustainable ocean economy.
Another organization attempting to use innovative technologies to help clean up the plastic waste floating in the Pacific is The Ocean Cleanup. They are a non-profit from the Netherlands founded in 2013 by their founder Boyan Slat.
They have developed a parachute-driven raft that uses the ocean’s natural forces to push it along and collect debris as it coasts along its course. As it first launched a couple of years back, the project has had growing pains along the way but has now successfully returned 60 bags of trash to Vancouver, Canada.
World oceans day roundup
We are at the brink of one of the largest ocean-related projects in the history of humanity. In 2021, the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development starts, and it is meant to last at least until 2030. Its mission is to reduce the damage that has already been done, and to protect the further decline in ocean health, as already a staggering 96% of the world’s oceans have been negatively affected in one way or another.
At the same time, other large organizations turn to coastal and marine environments, with the same goal in mind, but also with one eye towards economic growth – a trend nowadays called The Blue Economy.
Reversing the damage and ocean cleanup is a pressing and complicated imperative. Fortunately, in the past few decades, our knowledge has increased to a significant degree. The applicative potential of IT and big data technologies is something that gives us a fighting chance in this whole mess.
The amount of ocean remote sensing data is growing, mainly due to significant advancements in robotics technologies and expansive data collection possibilities through an increasing number of sensors and operations, such as deep ocean hydroacoustics.
Advances in artificial intelligence further expand our abilities to mine and sustainably leverage ocean data, by using machine learning and neural networks. With all this being said, data-driven marine and coastline research is considerably lacking behind land-based research.
Saving the deep blue we all share and depend on must be a priority and hopefully on our way to saving it, many innovative and sustainable opportunities arise. Because our over-dependence on fossil fuels and our fossil-fueled economies cannot last forever.
In fact, all fingers point to the need for major reconstruction in several absolutely crucial areas. Our understanding and treatment of the ocean must undergo serious revision and marine protected areas need to be managed in an efficient, responsible, and well-informed manner.
Authorities also need to do their part and implement new regulations based upon the constant monitoring of overfishing, marine pollution, ocean acidification, and emphasis on sustainable energy systems.
At Valuer, we understand the enormous importance of the ocean and the risks emerging from the negative impacts on it. With the oceans' health teetering on disaster, the need for innovative solutions that break down barriers into new markets is crucial for the oceanic ecosystem’s survival and the industries that depend on it.
What our Valuer platform can provide are the insights that investors, business owners, and entrepreneurs alike can use to foster their innovative development and break the new market barriers down.
Our AI-driven algorithm uses the vast Valuer database to custom fit any solution to your needs. And considering the emerging need for innovative and sustainable solutions to the many issues that face our oceans, the Valuer platform could be invaluable in seeking out new ventures and opportunities in any industry intrinsically linked to the oceans.
“With knowing comes caring, and with caring comes change,” explains Craig Leeson.
Our actions are crucial in protecting the ocean, coastal, and marine environments. So let’s keep ocean ecosystem sustainability top of mind this World Oceans Day.