Center for the Blue Economy
2017 Year-in-Review

Impact at Community Level:  The Closure of the Last Coastal Sand Mine

The CEMEX sand mine located on the Monterey Bay is the last coastal sand mine in the United States.   It opened in 1906 in response to construction needs after the great San Francisco earthquake.  They extract roughly 250,000 cubic yards of sand annually, equivalent to a block of sand 10 feet high, 100 feet wide, and over 1 mile long each year.    The beaches to the south are losing sand faster than anywhere else in the state.  In April of 2017, the Center for the Blue Economy wrote a letter to the California Coastal Commission and the State Lands Board, outlining the negative economic impacts of the sand mine.   This followed many years of activism and efforts from the community to bring this issue to the forefront.   In July of 2017, the California Coastal Commission unanimously agreed to settle with CEMEX, allowing them three years to end their sand extraction.  It was a long battle, and the Center for the Blue Economy is glad to have played a part.


Impact at State Level:  Community Risk Assessment Tools for California

Coastal erosion is a constant issue throughout much of the California coast, one that will be greatly intensified in the future by sea level rise. With funding from NOAA Sea Grant, the Center for the Blue Economy is designing and piloting a new process for choosing coastal adaptation strategies that is grounded in a community risk assessment and that can show the consequences of different decisions using computer simulations. Understanding the magnitude and timing of risks where history provides no guide to the future is the central problem in climate change adaptation. With the Center for the Blue Economy tool and process, communities will be able to take information about what their choices for responding to sea level rise are, and what the costs and benefits of different strategies are likely to be.  They can decide on the best way to deploy their options over time so as to minimize the risks of acting and not acting. The tools and process will be usable in communities throughout California and elsewhere with appropriate local data.


Impact at the National Level:  Official “U.S. Ocean Satellite Accounts”

You've heard of "Ocean Satellite Accounts," right?  No?  Well, that could be because they do not exist--yet.   Market sectors such as Healthcare, Energy and Agriculture have special "satellite accounts" monitored by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, which provide important details of those industrial sectors. There is no such thing for the oceans, although the ocean economy consistently generates a larger share of the U.S. economy than any other major natural resource industry including agriculture, forestry, and oil and gas. In 2017, the Center for the Blue Economy and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute began work to jointly assist the U.S. government in the creation of an official Ocean Satellite Account.  This is a huge step toward national recognition of the importance of our oceans and coasts.We will have responsibility for evaluating emerging definitions of the U.S. ocean economy internationally and for developing estimates of the U.S. government's role in the ocean economy.  We will assess the economics of the "blue tech" sector and develop and refine ocean economy estimates for the U.S. Pacific territories and Hawaii.

Impact at the International Level:  Measuring the Blue Economy Worldwide

In 2015, the Center for the Blue Economy hosted the first Oceans in International Income Accounts symposium with 26 attendees representing 10 countries.  This was the start of an important global conversation on how to define and measure the ocean economy within a national income accounting system.  This year, the 3rd annual Oceans in International Income Accounts symposium was hosted by Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, France, with 71 people representing 26 countries.  More and more countries are learning how to measure and thereby better manage and protect ocean and coastal resources.    Not only is the Center for the Blue Economy a leader in fostering this growing movement,  we are also leading the way in "Meta-Data Analysis."   Metadata is data about data—a standard way of describing the oceans in national income accounts--this will allow us to compare data between nations.  Dr. Charles Colgan has created working model, vetted by the group in Paris.  The next step is to formally approach the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or UN agencies to create an official, internationally recognized system of measurement.  In 2018 we will be working with Bangladesh and the 21 nations of the Indian Ocean Rim Association to help those nations measure and wisely manage their Blue Economies.


Innovative Research in 2017

Natural Infrastructure:  Triple Win for Public Safety, the Environment, and Investors

Around the world, people love to live by the water, be it along the coasts or inland lakes and rivers.   But living next to water has certain risks:  flooding, sea-level rise, and storm surge.    The need to find funding to reduce flood risks in coastal areas is pressing.   Insurers have paid out more than $200 billion in claims for damages due to coastal floods in the past 10 years.  Natural infrastructure (wetlands, natural dunes, etc.) could be the key to protecting public safety while providing rich habitat for wildlife and robust investment opportunity.   A report prepared for Lloyd's of London in 2017 by the Center for the Blue Economy examined options for financing natural infrastructure to help protect against flooding and storm surge.   The results? Investment to conserve or create natural habitats makes economic sense for investors and insurers.    With natural infrastructure taken into account, insurers can reduce the amount of claims they pay out and lower premiums.   Moreover, there is a large and growing pool of funding available for natural infrastructure investment, with the largest opportunities in redirection of post-disaster recovery funds to pre-disaster risk reduction.  With bold action on the part of industry, government, scientists, and communities, natural infrastructure can provide a “win-win-win” for the environment, public safety, and investors.  This is the power of the Blue Economy model. 


Less Bureaucracy and Better Protection for the California Coast?  An Innovative Market-Based Solution

California’s coast is one of the premier locations to live in the world.  Home to millions of people, as well as a great diversity of natural features and habitats, it is also a place that is disappearing from beneath our feet. Over 30% of southern California’s coast is now a fortress against nature. But the fortress undermines itself. Sea walls and armoring protect properties for a time, but result in accelerated erosion in other parts of the shore, which eventually threatens even larger stretches of shore. In a study published in 2017,  the Center for the Blue Economy and the Nature Conservancy put forward the concept of a market-based tradable permit system for shoreline protection.   The incentive for land owners is a simpler system to navigate with less time for permitting (currently it can take years to get any kind of permit).  The incentive from the environmental policy side is a more holistic, nature based management approach that will look at the entire coastline and the effects of each individual action on the entire system.  Initial outcomes of this study show that indeed this marketplace approach is less hassle for homeowners while improving ecological impacts.  The Nature Conservancy is pursuing funding for a more in-depth study that could be used to approach lawmakers for policy creation.  


Pioneering the Study of the Economy of the Arctic

The Arctic is on the leading edge of climate change, sea-level rise, and social equity issues.  Similar issues being faced around the world, and economic studies could be used to generate ideas and solutions that can apply globally.   The problem is there is very little information on the connection between the economy and the environment of this bellwether ecosystem.   This summer, the National Ocean Economics Program published a huge dataset on the economics of the Arctic, including:  Arctic Transit, Ports and Cargo, Oil and Gas, Minerals, Tourism, Subsistence Economies, Non-Market Values Database, an Ecological Database (what creatures are found where), Off-Shore Renewable Energy, and Wages and Employment.  This is pioneering work, but we did not stop there.   In November, the Center for the Blue Economy convened an "Arctic Economics Workshop," with 16 leading economists, scholars and scientists from around the world to encourage more scholarship and research on the topic.  One outcome is the formation of a new scholarly society:  SEAS: Society for the Study of the Economies of the Arctic and Subarctic. 


Future Dollars and Future Flood Risks--An Innovative Economic Vulnerability Study for San Diego

In 2017, the Center for the Blue Economy partnered with the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative to create an Economic Vulnerability Study for the San Diego region.  Using sea level rise and storm scenarios that are estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Coastal Storms Modeling Systems, the Center for the Blue Economy will estimate the economic impacts of flooding on reductions in employment, output, and income that result from a single major flooding event as well as an assessment of how the economy may evolve over time given repetitive flooding.  This approach represents two important innovations in understanding climate change. Most studies to date have focused on possible flood damages to individual properties.  The Center for the Blue Economy approach looks at the entire regional economy.  Other studies compare today’s economy with sea level rise risks decades in the future.  The San Diego project will combine forecasts of the future dollars, future regional economy with the estimates of future flood risks.  No one else is doing anything like this cutting edge work.


Two East Coast Studies
A Comprehensive Analysis of the Massachusetts Maritime Economy

In collaboration with the Public Policy Center at the University of Massachusetts, the Center for the Blue Economy recently published "Navigating the Global Economy: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Massachusetts Maritime Economy."   Findings show the maritime economy in Massachusetts grew faster than the state as a whole, and grew throughout the economic downturn of 2008. 

Mid-Atlantic Vulnerability Study

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Marine Policy Center and the Center for the Blue Economy, funded by NOAA,  have begun work on a study for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Council (MARCO), on the vulnerability of coastal and ocean resources to climate change. The area of study is quite large:  from Montauk Point, Long Island to Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Inspiring and Engaging Speakers

This year, the Center for the Blue Economy hosted 20 lecture events open to the public.  Crowds of more than 200 people came out to hear Bill McKibben speak on climate change, and Brendan Kelly on how changes in the Arctic affect the world.   We applaud our enthusiastic and engaged community.    If you missed a lecture, not to worry.   See the links below for speaker lists and video archives. 



Student Impact in 2017

Melis Okter Maps the Brave New Coastal Future

Those of us in Monterey County—and many beyond—are familiar with the economic hit taken by Big Sur businesses in the wake of last year’s epic rainfall. Throw global warming and sea level rise into the mix, and this is a recipe for disaster. But what does this mean on a statewide basis, for all 15 coastal counties?  That’s what MIIS alumna Melis Okter MAIEP ’16 helped examine. After receiving her degree, she worked as a California Sea Grant Fellow for the California Coastal Commission in San Francisco. As part of the Climate Change team, she helped conduct an exhaustive review of California’s coastal resources at risk to sea level rise, and drafted the final statewide report with county level data on climate change vulnerability, economic valuation studies, and Local Coastal Program participation.  While other studies had been done on the threat of global warming in California, this was by far the most comprehensive. The 152-page “Statewide Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Synthesis” report details the importance of the ocean economy upon a significant portion of California’s total economy.  The study related, for example, that 84 percent of Monterey County’s ocean economy is dependent upon tourism and recreation, and the loss of the County’s recreation trail, beaches, and tourist destinations, such as Fisherman’s Wharf, would create a major economic blow.  The good news is this report lays the groundwork for local governments, state and federal agencies, and other partners to work together to develop plans to mitigate what may be in store. The report findings were also turned into an interactive online map that will help coastal communities analyze current and future risks from sea level rise.

MIIS Student Works to Reduce Plastic in the Caribbean

It’s been said that “nothing on this earth lasts forever, except maybe plastic.”  The Mesoamerican Reef is the world’s second largest, surpassed only by the Great Barrier Reef. Stretching from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, through the Caribbean coasts of Belize and Guatemala, to the Bay Islands off Northern Honduras, it is called “the jewel of the Caribbean.” It’s a major tourist destination, too, with cruise ships docking at its ports daily.  The picture to the left is from the garbage dump on a side of the island tourists do not typically see. 

MIIS student Jillian Flavin, recently completed her summer Center for the Blue Economy fellowship as an impact investment coordinator with Think Beyond Plastic, a global organization that’s leading the charge to mobilize a large-scale response to plastic pollution.  Jillian’s summer internship was spent on the island of Roatan, traveling among the neighboring, smaller Honduran bay islands of Guanaja and Utila. “It’s an amazingly rich environment with its coral reefs, mangrove forests, coastal wetlands and diverse marine life, but it also sees high tourist traffic,” Jill explained. “More than a million visitors come through this area on cruise ships each year, plus thousands of tourists from the mainland, so the volume of plastics generated and discarded is enormous. Plastic straws, cups, plates, cutlery, clamshells…you name it. And, because of the tidal flow, much of the discarded plastic waste finds its way to the island’s beaches and waterways.”  Jillian’s task was connecting with local island businesses, especially those serving visitors, to assess the needs, opportunities, and challenges associated with reducing or eliminating plastic pollution by transitioning to eco-friendlier alternatives. Through individual interviews and analysis, followed by a feasibility study, she saw both the desire and will on the part of most businesses to move to plastic alternative products, leading to cost savings in some cases, and an overall win for the environment.

The Center for the Blue Economy Summer Fellows

Eleven students.  Three states.  Four countries.   This year's Center for the Blue Economy Summer Fellows tackled ocean and coastal resource management challenges across a broad range of disciplines:  deep sea conservation research, climate resilience, community-based resource management, sustainable financing, blue growth, fisheries management, coastal adaptation, community education, and gender equity.   The 2017 Summer Fellows Profiles give project descriptions and fellowship location for each student, while the students themselves offer tales from the field with their 2017 Summer Fellows Blogs.

One fellow Zara Curimjee, who did her fellowship focusing on tackling sustainable financing and ocean management for the government of Montserrat, found additional opportunities stemming from that summer project.  She will be working for the Waitt Institute for eight weeks over winter break looking at sustainable financing mechanisms for ocean management on Curaçao.  She will get to go to Curaçao for the second half of January. "This wouldn't have happened if it weren't for the CBE summer fellowship," said Zara.

In addition, Zara and fellow student Molly Shane have recently received a spring research grant stemming from a joint project with the Center for the Blue Economy and the Ocean Foundation.   They will be working with the Government of Cuba to develop and implement a national recreational fishing management plan.

Another current student, Clesi Bennett, has recently been hired by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission better known as BCDC.  Her fellowship certainly helped her to gain this opportunity.   We are so proud of all the students in the master's degree program for International Environmental Policy studies, and especially of our CBE Summer Fellows, who specialize in Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.  These are the ocean champions of the future. 

New Additions to the Team in 2017

Dr. Juliano Calil, new  Senior Fellow & Adjunct Professor

Dr. Juliano Calil has almost 20 years of experience designing and implementing complex decisions support systems, across multiple industries and subject areas: coastal vulnerability assessment, coastal adaptation plans, flood insurance, census and demographic data, cost benefit analysis, and finance. Juliano received his Ph.D. in Ocean Sciences from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2017, with a thesis entitled “Multidisciplinary Approaches to Coastal Adaptation.” We are so pleased to welcome Dr. Calil to the Center for the Blue Economy team as our newest Senior Fellow, and look forward to future collaboration.


Dr. Elizabeth Chornesky, new Associate Professor

Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Chornesky joined the faculty of the International Environmental Policy program this fall.  Liz Chornesky works at the interface of science and policy on issues related to ecosystem management, sustainability, and global change. Since 2002, through her consulting practice and scholarly activities, Dr. Chornesky has assisted numerous non-profit organizations, philanthropies, and public agencies in designing and evaluating science, policy, investment, and organizational strategies. Her primary focus for the past decade has been developing practical solutions for anticipating and adapting to climate change.

Dr. Pawan Patil, new Advisory Council Member

Pawan Patil, Ph.D is an economist and serial social entrepreneur who has worked in partnership with others to improve millions of lives for good. He has built social enterprises and multi-finance platforms that have supported innovation in ocean education, poverty alleviation, job creation, and coastal development efforts for the poorest. We are so pleased to welcome Dr. Patil to the Center for the Blue Economy Advisory Council.



Mr. Shaun Richards, new CBE Research Associate



Shaun Richards (MAIEP-OCRM "16) joined the Center for the Blue Economy full-time this fall to help us achieve our research objectives as we get more and more grant-funded projects.  We are thrilled to have Shaun on the team.


Honoring Dr. Judith Kildow, Founder and Director of the National Ocean Economics Program

"What does the ocean lend to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product?"  This was the fundamental question that Dr. Judith Kildow, then a professor at MIT, was determined to answer.  No one before her had stuck with the question long enough to find a definitive answer.  With her perseverance and partnership with economist Charles Colgan, they innovated an entirely new field of study in ocean economics, founding the National Ocean Economic Program in 1999.  Their methodology is now the standard for studying the Blue Economy around the world.  Dr. Kildow transitions this year from full-time Director to "retired academic," meaning she will likely be busier than ever.  On the heels of her recent NSF funded "Arctic Economics Workshop," she is pursuing further NSF grants to spur economic studies of the Arctic, continuing to pursue her ever forward-thinking endeavors.  Dr. Jason Scorse, Director of the Center for the Blue Economy is now tasked with shepherding the National Ocean Economics Program dataset into the future.  Honoring Dr. Kildow at a recent Advisory Council meeting he said,  "Among my friends we say, 'If I have one original thought in my lifetime, I’ll consider my life worthy.'  To contribute something new to the world is a rare thing.  Judy, along with Charlie, created a new field of inquiry for the world, a new tool for the world.  Very few will look back at their life and see this level of innovation."

We look forward to working with Dr. Kildow in her continued role as Center for the Blue Economy Advisory Council member.  Thank you Dr. Kildow for your immense contribution to the world.

New MOU with the National Marine Data and Information Service of the People's Republic of China

On Wednesday, November 15th, a delegation from the National Marine Data and Information Service of China and a delegation from the Middlebury Institute celebrated the signing of a Memorandum of Understading (MOU) to further cooperation and  continued research together, and with a joint effort to encourage more nations to measure their blue economy, and manage marine coastal resources wisely.  



Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics Going Strong

The Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics  is up to 18,000 downloads since launch three years ago (10,000 in last year alone).  Readership represents 84 countries and 2400 institutions.  The most frequent users are from the U.S., China, UK, Philippines, and Japan.  With four volumes, and a view to a special edition on marine pollution and another on the Arctic, the Journal is well poised for 2018.

Volume 4, Issue 1 (2017) General Papers

Research Articles

Economic Evaluation of Coastal Land Loss in Louisiana
Stephen R. Barnes, Craig Bond, Nicholas Burger, Kate Anania, Aaron Strong, Sarah Weilant, and Stephanie Virgets

Aligning Natural Resource Conservation, Flood Hazard Mitigation, and Social Vulnerability Remediation in Florida, Juliano Calil and Sarah Newkirk



Considerations of Socio-Economic Input, Related Challenges and Recommendations for Ecosystem-Based Maritime Spatial Planning: A Review
Mavra Stithou

Applications Notes

The Market Transfer Effect in the Hawaiian Longline Fishery: Why Correlation Does Not Imply Causation, Jason D. Scorse, Shaun Richards, and Philip King

Phragmites Removal Increases Property Values in Michigan’s Lower Grand River Watershed
Paul Isely, Erik E. Nordman, Shaun Howard, and Richard Bowman

The Economics of European Eel Management, Hanna Nilsson and Jesper Stage

 Volume 3, Issue 1 (2016-2017) 

Research Article

The Effect of Marine Protected Areas on Fishers' Income in the Philippines
Giselle PB. Samonte, Victoria C. Ramenzoni, Terence U. Dacles, and Dominik Fortenbacher

Applications Notes

Assessing Non-market Benefits of Seagrass Restoration in the Gulf of Gdańsk
Tobias Börger and Joanna Piwowarczyk

A Valuation Analysis of the Physical Oceanographic Real Time System (PORTS)
K. Eric Wolfe and David MacFarland

Volume 3, Issue 2 (2016-2017) Special Issue: Economics of Coastal Climate Change Adaptation

Research Articles

Climate Change Adaptation Case Study: Benefit-Cost Analysis of Coastal Flooding Hazard Mitigation
Will Cooper, Federico Garcia, Diana Pape, David Ryder, and Ben Witherell

Climate Adaptation Finance Mechanisms: New Frontiers For Familiar Tools
Jack D. Kartez Ph.D. and Samuel B. Merrill Ph.D.

The Impact of Climate Change on Marine Recreational Fishing with Implications for the Social Cost of Carbon, John Whitehead and Daniel Willard

Rethinking Our Global Coastal Investment Portfolio
Erin McCreless and Michael W. Beck


The Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change in Coasts and Oceans: Literature Review, Policy Implications and Research Agenda, Charles S. Colgan

Special Content

The Economics of Climate Adaptation on America’s Coasts: A Washington Conversation, Charles Colgan

Remembering Dr. Margaret Davidson


Dr. Margaret Davidson served as Center for the Blue Economy Advisory Council member from the founding of the Council in 2014, until her death in May of 2017.   She was an ocean hero, and in fact she was part of the initial inspiration for the founding of the National Ocean Economics Program, and one of the initial advocates for funding for the program.  She was a visionary and one of the ocean's greatest champions.  Read a remembrance of her here. 




Thank you to all Ocean Champions.  More innovative research to come in 2018!