The blue economy, also known as ocean economy, is a term used in describing the economic activities associated with oceans and seas. The World Bank defines it as the sustainable use of ocean resourses to benefit economies, livelihood and ocean ecosystem. The activities commonly understood to represent the blue economy (unlike the green economy that focuses primarily on the sectors of land-base activities such as enrgy, transport, agriculture and forestry) include maritime shipping, fishing and acquaculture, coastal tourism, renewable energy, undersea cabling, seabed extraction, underwater and deep sea mining, marine genetic resources, and biotechnology.

In the extimation of the World Bank, the blue economy, globally, is worth more than $1.5 trillion per year. It provides over 30 million jobs and supplies vital resources of protein to over 3 billion people.

In the context of Nigeria, the blue economy encompasses all economic activities related to the oceans, seas, and coasts, and it has significant potential for sustainable development of the country. With its extensive coastline and rich marine resources, Nigeria has the opportunity to drive economic growth, create employment, and improve livelihoods through the sustainable use of its marine resources.

The creation of the ministry of marine and blue economy, a novel initiative by the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has the potential of creating the needed impetus to ensure a sustainable future and comprehensive approach that seeks balance economic growth, environmental protection and social equity in the context of ocean based industries in Nigeria. According to Professor Gunter Pauli, founder of the Global Blue Economy, with the creation of the ministry, and the country’s abundant marine resources and potentials, Nigeria would make giant strides in its blue economy journey.

One of the key pillars of driving the blue economy in Nigeria is the sustainable exploitation of fisheries and aquaculture. Nigeria has a rich and diverse range of fish species, providing a valuable source of protein and income for millions of people. However, unsustainable fishing practices, overfishing, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing have threatened the sustainability of fish stocks and the livelihoods of fishing communities. To address these challenges, Nigeria can implement effective fisheries management strategies, promote sustainable aquaculture practices, and combat IUU fishing through stronger enforcement and international collaboration.

In addition to fisheries, Nigeria can also harness the potential of marine resources such as offshore oil and gas, marine renewable energy, marine biotechnology, and marine tourism. The development of these sectors can contribute to economic diversification, job creation, and revenue generation. However, it is essential to ensure that the exploitation of these resources is done in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner to minimize negative impacts on marine ecosystems and local communities.

Furthermore, investing in maritime transportation and shipping infrastructure can enhance trade connectivity, facilitate the movement of goods and people, and stimulate economic growth. Developing and modernizing ports, improving maritime safety and security, and enhancing connectivity with landlocked neighboring countries can boost Nigeria’s competitiveness in global trade and strengthen its position as a regional maritime hub.

Another crucial aspect of driving the blue economy in Nigeria is the preservation and conservation of marine ecosystems and biodiversity. Mangroves, coral reefs, and marine protected areas are vital for sustaining fish stocks, protecting coastal areas from erosion, and supporting tourism and recreation. Strengthening marine conservation efforts, promoting sustainable coastal and marine spatial planning, and combating pollution and marine debris can help safeguard these valuable ecosystems for future generations.

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Notwithstanding the challeneges facing the blue econmy in Nigeria which include sea piracy, illegal arms trafficking pollution and the over reliance on oil and gas particularly among the Niger Delta states, investing in marine research, technology, and innovation can unlock new opportunities for sustainable economic growth and environmental protection. Research and development in marine science, oceanography, and marine engineering can lead to the discovery of new resources, the development of innovative technologies, and the advancement of sustainable ocean-based industries.

To drive the blue economy for sustainable development in Nigeria, it is essential to strengthen governance and institutional frameworks related to marine resources management. This includes the development of comprehensive marine spatial planning, the implementation of effective fisheries management policies, the enhancement of maritime governance and law enforcement, and the promotion of public-private partnerships for sustainable investment in the blue economy.

Capacity building, education, and skills development play a crucial role in empowering local communities, fisherfolk, and maritime professionals to participate in and benefit from the blue economy. Equipping people with the knowledge and skills to engage in sustainable fishing practices, marine conservation, maritime trade, and marine-related industries can foster inclusive growth and social development.

In promoting the blue economy, Nigeria can also leverage international cooperation and partnerships to access technical expertise, financial resources, and best practices. Collaborating with regional and international organizations, neighboring countries, and global stakeholders can support Nigeria’s efforts in sustainable marine resource management, environmental conservation, and economic development.

Additionally, promoting public awareness and stakeholder engagement is vital for building support for the blue economy and fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility among the public, businesses, and civil society. Raising awareness about the value of marine resources, the importance of sustainable practices, and the benefits of the blue economy can mobilize collective action and foster a culture of conservation and sustainable development.

In conclusion, driving the blue economy for sustainable development in Nigeria requires a comprehensive and integrated approach that balances economic growth with environmental protection and social equity. By promoting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, harnessing marine resources, investing in maritime infrastructure, preserving marine ecosystems, fostering innovation, strengthening governance, empowering communities, and engaging international partnerships, Nigeria can unlock the full potential of its blue economy for the benefit of present and future generations.

Ejiofor is a Deputy Registrar with Yaba College of Technology, Lagos.