Big changes to the use and value of marine resources in the Caribbean
A few weeks ago, a very significant paradigm shift quietly occurred in the Caribbean in the world of economic growth and environmental sustainability. It happened in the Bahamas and whereas it did not register on any Richter scale, it was a monumental shift in our appreciation of the natural resources around us and how we value these resources.
Building a blue business climate for optima use of resources
For the last years, the Bahamas has engaged in a very ambitious reform program, involving a series of policy actions that integrate reforms aimed at growth in both the public and private sectors, strengthening the environmental framework in which private sector activities are carried out, including modernizing the institutions in charge of the protecting environment. Simultaneously, it took a series of actions to promote the optimal use of its marine resources, under a sustainability framework. With 95% of its territory located in the marine habitat, marine resources have the potential to become an important source of economic production, if properly managed and protected. The Bahamas has thus become a trailblazer in supporting economic diversification, use of technology, optimal use of marine resources, economic recovery, and employment through the Blue Economy.
Blue collaboration, data management, and science
Getting to this point, it entailed a multidiscipline collaboration among different stakeholders in the Bahamas, including different government institutions, NGOs, academia, the private sector, and international donors. Furthermore, science and technology in terms of data mining, use of satellite data, and in-depth estimation of cost and benefits supported informed decision-making in the activities carried out. This scientific work and inclusive participation of all parties involved in promoting and protecting an ocean economy, concluded in a common vision at the country level of a new perspective of the marine space that entails new ways of managing resources.
Building the foundations for a healthier and more productive ocean
As a result of this massive effort, the IDB in partnership with the Government of the Bahamas, approved a policy-based guarantee (PBG) based on the platform of a healthy and productive ocean economy of the Bahamas. This is the first time in the Caribbean and Latin America that the Bank has supported the promise to repay or support the issuance of a bond, on the basis of the sustainable utilization and management of the ocean space of a country. Furthermore, it opens new possibilities for using the ocean potential and the activities to preserve to achieve financial goals in a time of crisis, together with advancing efforts to respond to the impacts of climate change. The critical importance of the Blue Economy to islands and states with significant coastal zones, together with its connection with helping to address the impacts of climate change, is one of the principal reasons why the Bank is working in this area. It is estimated that greater than 25% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean live on the coast and depend heavily on ocean resources.
A guarantee of this nature reduces market risk and the financial cost of borrowing and is all based on the benefit of having a healthy and productive ocean. It is this idea that the maintenance, good governance, implementation of sustainable practices around the health and productivity of marine and coastal resources can be used as assets for the guarantee of repayment of a bond. What this does is elevate the importance of this vast natural space and its valuable components beyond that of the limitations of “sea and sand.”
How can this be achieved? The approach that the Bahamas has taken for a productive and healthy ocean involves three main elements:
- Policy measures that improve the business climate in the Blue Economy in a sustainable manner, especially for MSMEs. These include upgrades in digitalization to improve efficiency; promotion of nature-based solutions; climate disaster tagging within the national budget etc.
- Policy measures that overcome challenges related to the optimal use of marine resources and reduce marine pollution. These include promoting better management (i.e. through certification, traceability, and protection) of marine resources; improvements in resource management (e.g. new fisheries regulations, certification of marine resources; reduction of marine pollution), etc.
- Reduction of climate risk through the implementation of climate change adaptation and disaster risk management policies.
These elements together with a strong adherence to the monitoring of the outcomes of these reforms and policies build trust in the guarantee and the issuing of the bond. The implication of this approach is a significant paradigm shift for regions, countries, and communities that occupy and manage a vast ocean space.
The way forward, what does this mean for the rest of the Caribbean?
Our understanding of the Blue Economy is that “it is a coordinated approach to climate change and climate risk solutions, environmental sustainability, and economic growth, by strengthening oceanic ecosystems and optimizing the use of marine resources.” The way forward for countries to realize this goal, is to (i) develop strategic frameworks and action plans that would encapsulate these interlocking elements of the Blue Economy, (ii) act on these measures, and (iii) actively engage and coordinate with all stakeholders including coastal communities in the responsibility of the management and sustainability of these highly valuable resources.
A Blue Wave of Change is rolling through the region!