The (New) Blue Economy

by Bill Davis

The Blue Economy has long history, dating back to at least 6000 BC when humans are believed to have begun whaling in Korea so we're talking 8000+ years.  For most of us though, we equate the Blue Economy with the Viking Age from 800 to 1050 AD when Vikings roamed the seas.  Suffice it to say, we have been busy the last ~1200 years generating economic value from the ocean, and I include lakes, rivers and streams as all are blue, rivers and streams typically exit into the ocean and we generate economic value from all.  So what's up with the New Blue Economy?

"At the core of the new Blue Economy concept is the de-coupling of socioeconomic development from environmental degradation… a subset of the entire ocean economy that has regenerative and restorative activities that lead to enhanced human health and well-being, including food security and creation of sustainable livelihoods."

The key phrase / word for me is "the de-coupling of socioeconomic development from environmental degradation" and "sustainable" as that's not something we have ever really put into practice.  We have treated the ocean, lakes, rivers and streams incredibly poorly throughout human history and that needs to change asap, especially as the ocean provides us with at least 50% of the oxygen we breathe, not something we want to mess around with, and as lakes, rivers and streams make up only 1.2% of the 2.5% of all the water in the world that is freshwater which is critical for our survival, we have no choice but to do better.

I live in Oregon, Portland (aka PDX & Stumptown), where since moving here in Sep18 I have found the inspiration to pursue the siren call of the Blue Economy.  Challenge is I am way out in front as the Blue Economy hasn't established roots here yet as it wasn't until Q123 that it was recognized as an emerging industry in Oregon and the report acknowledges we are late to the party in comparison to our neighbors in CA and WA.  Perhaps 2024 will be the year we turn the corner because there are some tremendous Blue Economy assets at the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science (CEOAS) at Oregon State University including managing the data for the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), PacWave, Collaborative Innovation Complex (CIC) (spoiler alert: CIC is going to be amazing), etc.  

That being said, the early stage financing community in PDX and around the state seems lukewarm at best towards the Blue Economy which imo is what is really holding things back here.  At least from my perspective, there's a disconnect between PDX and CEOAS so have been working to build that bridge.  PDX's Mayor checked out during covid and is now leaving office completely so not expecting anything at the city level from government so if the new Governor, she assumed office in Jan23, doesn't start focusing here, I suspect the early stage financing community will sit idly by.

There are other locations in the US that are more active with the Blue Economy than Oregon so if the private sector doesn't start moving on this sooner rather than later, there will be little choice but to look elsewhere unfortunately.  How qualifies as a Blue Economy company is we sell beach gear / goods online with an emphasis on sustainability to protect the health of our ocean, lakes and rivers.  We are also a corporate member of 1% for the Planet so have committed to investing 1%+ of our annual revenue into aquatic, marine and freshwater, conservation, education and science organizations as well as educating our customers and stakeholders about what is happening in the ocean, lakes and rivers / streams.

Hope that paints a clearer picture, but if any questions feel free to email to discuss further.