Blue Economy, Blue Growth, Social Equity and Small-scale Fisheries: A Global and National Level Review

Jewel Das


One of the most promising economic arenas in the coming decades is the ocean and there are currently numerous initiatives to the ‘blue economy’ discourse that revolves around the argument that small-scale fishers’ livelihoods require greater attention. To synthesize current scientific knowledge and address prevailing research gaps surrounding this discourse, I conduct a scoping review of global literature on the blue economy, blue growth, social equity, and Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) analyse different international policy papers and national-level blue economy plans. To explore the need for further research, this review focuses on how different aspects of the blue economy risks lead to inequity in the pursuit of ocean sustainability. Based on the initial content analysis, I identify evidence for undermining social equity and justice related to the ocean and find that social equity is often overlooked in national-level blue economy and blue growth initiatives. This overlooking leads to or accelerates processes of coastal and ocean grabbing, displacement, dispossession, and exclusion which strongly impact the livelihoods of marginalized coastal communities, particularly, small-scale fishers in various parts of the world. The collected evidence suggests that there is a missing link between international policy deliberations and national-level implementation plans in the blue economy context. Numerous studies claim that critical re-thinking of policies is required to ensure the sustainability of blue economy trajectories. Unchecked economic growth in the ocean as in other realms can reinforce inequities and unjust and inequitable resource distribution patterns. To pre-empt, mitigate, and resolve likely conflicts, deeper insights are needed to address the impacts of the blue economy and blue growth on coastal livelihoods. I suggest investigating the causes of conflict and further research on how governance responds to sustain small-scale fisheries while embracing the blue economy and blue growth agendas.

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