Future 500 | Finding common ground between uncommon allies

“Blue Economy; Blue Growth”, offers a vision of the oceans and coasts as a new source of economic growth, job creation, and investment. The upcoming Economist Events’ third World Ocean Summit, taking place June 3-6 in Cascais, Portugal is convening more than 250 delegates from various sectors to foster a solutions-based dialogue towards ocean health and the economy. The event is timely given the increasing number of stressors placed on the ocean like acidification, overfishing, offshore oil and gas exploration, toxic spills, and the growing amount of plastic pollution. The newly emerging so-called “blue economy” believes that government action and businesses will help drive market based solutions, sound policy, and innovative technology to new heights to protect our oceans and coasts.


Photo by Shilpi Chhotray

As a delegate of the event, I am excited to participate in this global discussion seeking to build consensus around a new ocean agenda. Speakers will include esteemed leaders like Aníbal Cavaco Silva, the President of Portugal; Maria Damanaki from The Nature Conservancy; Kathryn Sullivan from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and James Hnat from Jet Blue Airways. I am particularly interested in this event, as history has demonstrated a push and pull between commercial interests and ocean conservation. Due to the frontiers of science, our overdependence on marine resources is much clearer now than it was even 10 years go.

The Economist describes the blue economy as “a ‘win-win’ scenario where the private sector, acting through enlightening self-interest, is a catalyst for both economic development and environmental protection.” In this vision, there is a marriage of both worlds, fostering opportunity, investment and sustainable growth. The private sector (shipping, commercial fisheries, and tourism) has also been involved in multi-stakeholder dialogue and in spearheading collaboration. There is, however, a larger role that both government and the private sector can play to safeguard ocean resources for commercial interests, marine life, and the communities that depend on them.

The World Ocean Summit’s Ocean Innovation Challenge presents a unique opportunity to see first-hand these innovative discussions around ocean technology. Three finalists, including Pew Charitable Trusts Eyes on the Seas will present their ground breaking projects at the Summit and the final winner will be decided by an expert panel. Eyes on the Seas for instance, will help monitor, detect, and respond to illicit fishing activity around the globe. Sylvia Earle, National Geographic explorer-in-residence and revered oceans expert indicates: The existence of this facility should make illegal fishers (with their links to human, drugs and arms trafficking) wary as they know their activities can be tracked and ships apprehended when they arrive at port. [This is] truly a breakthrough vital to building a sustainable blue economy, already in operation and scalable to include a focus on especially sensitive ocean areas.

Alongside commercial purposes, people have an age-old fasciation with the seas, whether it may be for relaxation, spiritual connection, or leisurely activities. A symbiotic relationship must be created and maintained in order to ensure our global oceans are not completely over-exhausted and polluted for generations to come. The World Ocean Summit seeks to bring attention to this vital effort.


Shilpi Chhotray is a stakeholder engagement manager at Future 500, a global nonprofit organization specializing in stakeholder engagement and building bridges between parties at odds — corporations and non-governmental organizations, the political right and left, and others — to advance systemic solutions to environmental problems. Follow Shilpi on Twitter @ShilpiChhotray.

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