Our ocean is changing faster than at any time in human history. Risks associated with sea level rise, storm surges and coastal flooding are multiplying, affecting billions of lives and livelihoods and threatening critical coastal ecosystems. Coastal communities in LDCs and SIDS are likely to be most severely impacted, with women and girls especially hard-hit.

At the same time we are seeing an accelerating scramble for current, and future, ocean benefits that is unfolding with unprecedented intensity. This scramble for the seas – or “blue acceleration” - will generate surprising ecological, economic, equity and policy effects, and previously unperceived risks and opportunities. The future of the ocean economy in SIDS and LDCs depends on their ability to navigate this new ocean risk landscape.

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Blue acceleration - an ocean of risk and opportunities

The prospect of a new era of blue growth poses unprecedented sustainability and governance challenges for the ocean, as marine ecosystems face cumulative pressures from local human impacts, global climate change and distal socioeconomic drivers. Driven by increasing consumption patterns, land-based sources decline, and technological progress, the hopes and expectations for the ocean as an engine of future human development are increasing and have become ubiquitous. Consequently, the prospect of a new era of blue growth is increasingly finding its way into policy documents and depicting the marine realm as the next economic frontier, resulting in considerable investments and the emergence of new ocean-based industries with a diversity of interests.This new phase in humanity’s use of the ocean, dubbed the “Blue Acceleration”, exhibits a phenomenal rate of change over the last 30 years, with a sharp acceleration characterising the onset of the 21st century, in stark contrast to the slow pace at which new policy is being developed. With two-thirds of the ocean lying beyond national jurisdiction and a fragmented ocean governance landscape, this poses great challenges and calls for a rapid transformation towards improved sustainability. But this scramble for the seas also poses issues of equity and benefit sharing: if there is a rush for the ocean, then who is winning? And who is being left behind?

Through a synthesis of peer-reviewed and grey literature, empirical data, and case studies from SIDS and LDCs, this report describes ut this show issues of equity and benefit sharing are playing out in the Blue Acceleration, highlights how SIDS and LDCs are at particular risk to stranded assets, and explores the role that finance, public or private, can play in assisting transformation towards an equitable and sustainable Blue economy.


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Ocean Risks in SIDS and LDCs

Coastal communities SIDS and LDCs are unique in their position of vulnerability towards ocean-derived risks. They have high levels of exposure and sensitivity to these risks, in part owing to the heavy dependency on the sea for fisheries and tourism – core sectors that support their GDP, livelihoods as well as food security. The situation in these countries is changing rapidly, as is their exposure to different types of risks, and their ability to adapt and respond. The high dependence of many developing countries on tourism and imports and concomitant effects of the current pandemic and tropical cyclone Harold, for instance, are examples of how fragile some of the existing means of livelihood and food security are to external forces.

Through a synthesis of peer-reviewed and grey literature, empirical data, and case studies from SIDS and LDCs, this report describes the prominent biophysical and anthropogenic stressors and their impacts on SIDS and LDCs, highlights the key social-ecological features of SIDS and LDCs that shape their vulnerabilities to these stressors, and suggests potential ways that can support SIDS and LDCs to mitigate ocean risks and build resilience.


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Gender dynamics of ocean risk and resilience in SIDS and coastal LDCs

Both fisheries and tourism have been highlighted as pivotal sectors to achieving the SDGs. Women play important roles across fisheries value chains and throughout the tourism sector. Yet women’s roles, contributions, priorities and interests tend to be overlooked and undervalued across sectors as well as in policy and management. In addition, because of restrictive social-cultural norms women are underrepresented in policy and decision-making. Gender discrimination threatens to increase women’s vulnerability to ocean risks. Advancing gender equality benefits women and girls through improved welfare and agency. These benefits extend beyond the individual to women’s households and communities, helping countries realise their full development potential, especially within the context of a Blue Economy.

Through a synthesis of peer-reviewed and grey literature, and numerous case studies from SIDS and LDCs, this report highlights gender roles in two key sectors of the ocean economy (small-scale fisheries and coastal tourism), describes the gendered dimensions of ocean risks, and summarizes efforts across SIDS and LDCs for gender equitable approaches to building resilience to ocean risks.


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  • About the reports

    The ocean, its coastlines and coastal communities are at the front line of climate change, and are being massively impacted by increasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. The world’s poor, the majority of whom are women, are disproportionately encumbered by the associated risks. At the same time we see increasing hopes and expectations that the ocean will serve as an engine to sustain a bright “blue” future. There is an accelerating scramble for current, and future, ocean benefits that is unfolding with unprecedented intensity and diversity. Fisheries, mining, genetic resource patenting, aquaculture development, transportation, conservation, and communication, or emerging financial mechanisms and political interests, create an interesting mix of old and new interests. This scramble for the seas will generate surprising ecological, economic, equity and policy effects, and previously unperceived risks and opportunities. These 3 reports synthesise the latest knowledge and generate new insights on some of the key emerging ocean risks, and their implications on the resilience and human wellbeing on SIDS and LDCs.

    This is a contribution to the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA). It has been led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University and the Global Resilience Partnership, and supported by the Government of Canada.

    The Research team

    Albert
    Albert Norström

    Albert is head of Knowledge and Evidence at the Global Resilience Partnership, and a researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. His research focus is broad, and includes work on exploring the dynamics contributing to the reliable production of ecosystem services, developing a suite of alternative, plausible scenarios of “Good Anthropocenes”, and multiple projects focusing on marine social-ecological systems and their futures in the Anthropocene.

    Colette
    Colette C.C. Wabnitz

    Colette draws on over 15 years of international experience focused broadly on managing biodiversity risk and achieving positive outcomes across the three pillars of sustainability: society, the economy and the environment. Her areas of practice include small-scale fisheries; climate change; food and nutritional security; ecosystem approaches to policy; illegal fisheries and forced labor; sustainable development; marine genetic resources; ocean finance; ecosystem modelling and equity with a particular focus on developing economies.

    Robert B
    Robert Blasiak

    Robert is a researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, where he focuses on aspects of international cooperation, the sustainable management of ocean resources, and ocean stewardship. His recent work has focused on the international negotiations around biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), particularly with regard to marine genetic resources.

    Kanae
    Kanae Tokunaga

    Kanae leads the Coastal and Marine Economics Lab at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. She is an Associate Research Scientist in Coastal and Marine Resource Economics. In her research, she uses various research methods, including bioeconomic modeling, econometrics, surveys, and interviews, to approach coastal and marine resource management issues. She is primarily interested in understanding efficiency, efficacy, and stability of various fisheries management institutions, and how they may be impacted by climate change and other environmental changes.

    JB Jouffray
    Jean-Baptiste Jouffray

    Jean-Baptiste is a postdoctoral researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University. His research focuses on the interlinked social, economic and ecological challenges that shape the new global ocean context – exploring what the Anthropocene means for the ocean, what it entails for how we study marine social-ecological systems and, essentially, what can be done to improve sustainability.