Ten Nations Collaborate at First Annual Oceans Symposium

The Center for the Blue Economy hosted the first annual, “Oceans in National Income Accounts Symposium: Seeking Consensus on Definitions and Standards,” on October 25-29, 2015 at the Asilomar Conference grounds. Twenty-six representatives from ten nations (US, China, Korea, Canada, Ireland, Spain, Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia and France) joined in what was a truly unprecedented discussion on the definition and measurement of the ocean economy and the blue economy within national income accounting frameworks. How does a discussion of national income accounts lend to efforts to improve ocean health, human welfare, and sustainability, you may wonder?

PhotoCredit.MarkSpalding.1"We know that ocean health issues are critical to our life support. Without a healthy ocean there is no human health. The converse is also true; if we invest in sustainable ocean industries (the blue economy), we will see co-benefits for human health and livelihoods," said Dr. Mark Spalding in his blog reflecting on the symposium. Dr. Spalding is President of the Ocean Foundation, a CBE Senior Fellow, and was a symposium participant. "Our goal in focusing on national accounts is to measure our ocean economy and blue sub-sector and be able to present data about those economies. Such data will allow us to monitor change over time and influence policy setting that is important to marine and coastal ecosystem services for the benefit of people and sustainability....We must provide policymakers with useful evidence and a framework, and our national accounts are already credible sources of information."

Symposium.4GentsAlthough no two nations measured the ocean economy in the same way, it became clear that there are many common sectors. One of the major outcomes of the symposium was an agreement between nations to build a common set of categories, methodologies, and geographies for measuring the market economy of the oceans. Additionally, these nations will seek ways to measure natural capital to indicate whether the economic growth is sustainable over the long term.

Another outcome of the meeting was a consensus definition of the blue economy as a subset of the ocean economy: a sustainable ocean-based economic model and employs environmentally-sound infrastructure, technologies and practices that support sustainable development. Maria Corazon-Ebarvia (the Project Manager for Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia) presented a paper that was influential in formulating the consensus definition. Her system recognizes that the ocean generates economic values not usually quantified (such as shoreline protection and carbon sequestration) and measures losses from unsustainable development, as well as measuring external events (storms).

Dr. Spalding writes: "Our challenge remains that sustainability does not easily coincide with industrial classification codes. For example fishing and fish processing may include small-scale, sustainable actors and large commercial operators whose gear or practices are destructive, wasteful, and clearly unsustainable. From a conservation perspective, we know a lot about different actors, gears etc., but our national account system is not really designed to recognize these nuances."

A final outcome from the symposium was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, the parent organization of the Center for the Blue Economy, and the Korea Maritime Institute. Joint research activities and publications, the exchange of invitations for lectures, shared participation and sponsorship of conferences, building connections with scholars in both countries, and the exchange of technical information in fields of common interest are all anticipated in the years to follow.

The first annual Oceans in National Income Accounts Symposium was jointly sponsored by the the Loker Foundation, the Ocean Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Korea Maritime Institute, the National Marine Data and Information Service of the People's Republic of China, and Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA).

The symposium group will be digging into these nuances in working groups over the next year, and will meet in 2016 in China for the Second Annual Oceans in National Income Accounts Symposium. The goal will be to draft a first-of-its-kind international consensus document on the measurement of the ocean economy and blue economy subset. The Center for the Blue Economy is proud to have provided the leadership for this important international effort.

Learn More:  Volume 2, Issue 2 (2016) Special Issue of the Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics: Oceans and National Income Accounts: An International Perspective

Symposium Summary Report 11.6.15


Front row: Ms. Weiling Song, Ms. Maria Corazon Ebarvia, Dr. Jeongin Chang, Dr. Matius Suparmoko, Dr. Judith Kildow, Dr. Jason Scorse, President Sung-Gwi Kim, Vice President Jeffrey Dayton-Johnson, Dr. Xiaohui Wang, Ms. Hee Jung Choi, Dr. Javier Fernandez-Macho, Mr. Jeffrey Adkins, Dr. Alistair McIlgorm

Back row: Dr. Fernando DePaolis, Dr. Charles Colgan, Ms. Ling Zhu, Dr. Stephen Hynes, Dr. Sujin Park, Ms. Rachel Christopherson, Dr. Raymundo Talento, Dr. Regis Kalaydjian, Dr. Mark Spalding, Mr. Rui Zhao, Dr. Alejandro Demaio-Sukic, Dr. Kwang Seo Park, Dr. Jungho Nam, Dr. Ian Mead

For the list of participants showing names and titles, please click the link below.