The blue economy is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems. Its sectors, such as fisheries, maritime transport, offshore renewable energy, and tourism, provide jobs and livelihoods to millions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. In Morocco, 59 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is directly dependent on the ocean and coastal-related activities. In Tunisia, the tourism and the fisheries sector alone provide approximately 450,000 jobs (forthcoming technical note).
Yet, the ocean is in a dire state. For example, the Mediterranean Sea has reached a tipping point due to overfishing, marine pollution, rising sea levels, and ocean warming. Homes in coastal areas are being washed away by increased flooding and coastal erosion. Coastal cities are expanding, even as they sink below sea level.
Ocean degradation is expensive to society. Marine plastic pollution reduces the attractiveness of tourist destinations. Sea-level rise and coastal erosion can damage the urban infrastructure. In Morocco, the environmental degradation of coastal areas annually costs US$260 million, equivalent to 0.27 percent of its GDP. There is an urgent need for developing more sustainable economic models.
The MENA Blue Program supports such a transition to a more sustainable ocean economy in the region. It aims to strengthen countries' capacity to develop blue economy growth opportunities and climate-resilient coastal investments at national and regional levels. Under the Program, the World Bank helps countries identify causes for the degradation of the marine and coastal ecosystems and develop effective strategies and policy options. At the regional level, MENA Blue analyses the impacts of coastal erosion and its economic implication. In Morocco, it assists the Government in assessing the status of marine plastic pollution and developing a national “Coast without Plastic” strategy. The Program also helps the Government apply natural capital accounting methodologies and develop capacity for integrated marine and coastal planning.
Through these activities, the MENA Blue Program helps countries make the blue economy a foundation for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In Tunisia, the World Bank works with the Government to take stock and assess the status of the blue sectors to drive a blue recovery. In Morocco, it supports the Government to examine the impact of the pandemic on the fisheries sector.
Sustainably managed ocean sectors can drive job creation while preserving ocean health. Now is the moment to review and reset economic models and make a paradigm shift to build a more resilient, inclusive, sustainable, efficient (RISE) and blue economy.