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Sustainable blue economy: moving beyond fish and ships

Pakistan is blessed with unlimited natural and marine resources. Pakistan’s 1,200 kilometers lengthy coastline with the Arabian Sea is a god gifted area with natural harbors. It is a mid-sea section which joins the strategic oil line of the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean. Pakistani sea ports join the trade routes between East and West which could be helpful to boost the economy of country. However, there are many issues that plague the maritime and fishery sectors for long. Since Pakistan lags behind in technology; sustainability is impossible, which leads to massive wastage. The Deep Sea Fishing Policy has banned bottom sea trawling to protect marine life that is growing extinct. In addition to marine life, there is dire need to take measures to develop coastal population in Balochistan. Ambiguity and overlapping of laws and responsibilities has become a major challenge which must be addressed.

Blue economy is a marine-based economic development that leads to improved human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. The oceans provide wide ranging value, from food and tourism to coastal protection and much more. Marine sectors are expected to expand dramatically in the coming years, with most doubling or quadrupling by 2030 and others growing to ten times or larger than their current size.

The ocean is the new economic frontier. It holds the promise of immense resource wealth and great potential for boosting economic growth, employment and innovation. And it is increasingly recognized as indispensable for addressing many of the global challenges facing the planet in the decades to come, from world food security and climate change to the provision of energy, natural resources and improved medical care. While the potential of oceans to help meet these challenges is huge, it is already under stress from over exploitation, pollution, declining biodiversity and climate change. Realizing the full potential of the oceans will therefore demand responsible sustainable approaches to its economic development.

There are 10 elements of blue economy some of which are discussed below:

  1. Aquaculture
  2. Coastal development
  3. Tourism/recreational activities
  4. Maritime transport
  5. Marine mining
  6. Professional fishing
  7. Oil & gas industry
  8. Off-shore wind energy
  9. Mineral resources
  10. Ship building/breaking industry
Tourism

While foreign tourists can be attracted by developing exclusive and secluded resorts, much like the Maldives or Bali, domestic sea-based tourism is in itself a lucrative sector to tap. By making buildings and beaches for different sports like beach basketball, beach volleyball, beach baseball, river rafting, scuba diving, swimming, boating and water activities etc., it will attract local people and tourists and also helps in economy. Housing schemes, flats and apartments attract and influence beauty of country near the coasts and improve tourism. We can make our beaches or coast like gold coast. It is the biggest attraction for tourists as it influences their economy too. Coastal Development and coastal tourism are now provincial subjects and since the governments of Sindh and Balochistan independently handle their sections of the coast, a lack of cooperation prevents seamless integration.

 

Maritime Sector

Maritime sector at the international economic scene continues to be the prime source of sustained growth, ever increasing employment opportunities and social cohesion. The ocean feeds billions of people, employs millions of workers and generates trillions of dollars in the world economy. According to study by OECD on 145 ports, 1 million tons of transshipment generates approximately 300 jobs and more than USD 100 million in added value.

Fishing

Currently, seafood exports remain less than half a billion dollars and the share of fisheries in agricultural GDP is 1.8 percent. With over 1,000-km coastline and plenty of lakes and rivers, Pakistan has the potential of being a major producer of seafood, which can not only feed a growing population at home but can also earn the country valuable foreign exchange and create jobs through the export sector. Our primary markets are the Middle East and Far East; China is the single most important market. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are also important. We export shrimp as well as different sorts of fish, octopuses and squid etc. Problems in the supply chain also effect fish farming and aquaculture.

Mineral Resources

The most valuable mineral resource of Pakistan is oil. An estimated four to six million barrels of deposits of oil are located in Pakistan’s sea coast. The coastal areas and continental margin of Arabian Sea also contain a wide variety of mineral deposits. The economically important minerals from the seafloor are used in deep cycle batteries. No work has been done on the exploration and exploitation of sea minerals in Pakistan.

The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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