Australia's marine industries deliver $80b a year. But without more scientists, the 'blue economy' is at risk
Australia is a marine nation. First Nations people have deep and unbroken connections to sea, 85% of us live within 50km of the coast, and our ocean territory is twice that of our land mass.
A large part of our economy – the “blue economy” – depends on the sea: tourism, ports, energy, transport, fisheries and aquaculture, and emerging industries like renewable energy, offshore aquaculture, and biotechnology.
Together, these industries are worth more than A$80 billion a year. By 2025, this figure may be $100 billion.
To manage our oceans and coasts to support a growing blue economy means we need to understand them, and that means we need science. At the National Marine Science Committee (NMSC), we have surveyed how well Australia is delivering this science. As we show in a new report, the story is mixed.
The NMSC is Australia’s peak body for marine research. Its members are almost 40 universities, research institutions and state and federal agencies.
The new report shows science has already helped deliver better outcomes for the blue economy, through things like strategies for fishery harvesting to balance consumer demands with economic and ecological sustainability.
The report also identifies further steps needed to ensure all recommendations are fulfilled. It offers three new recommendations, too.
First, integrate the knowledge, rights, capabilities, and aspirations of Traditional Owners into conventional marine science.
Second, establish national policy guidelines for open access to government-funded or regulatory data. This would include access to historical datasets and expand the Australian Ocean Data Network.
And third, develop an approach to increase the resilience of our coasts.
An unprecedented opportunity
After the economic shock of the pandemic, there is enormous interest in Australia’s blue economy and our ocean health. This can be realised via national and international initiatives and funding focused on sustainable growth.