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When we look back at history, we can see that most empires survived and flourished due to their trade in consumer goods that was dependent on the ocean for transport (The Ocean Foundation, 2021). Even the boom in the industrial revolution can be credited to oceans, for if it was not for the spermaceti oil, the scale of production could not have been increased.

The new blue economy, which has gained popularity since the 21st century is based on the integration of sustainable development as well as green growth. It emphasizes the overall development planning and coordination between aquatic ecosystems and the economic structure of the ocean and coastal areas (Wenhai et al., 2019).

Blue economy advocates the preservation of ocean ecosystems and sustainable production of the ocean's resources for achieving both sustainable and inclusive development. Situated in a prime location of the Indian Ocean with a large exclusive economic zone (EEZ), India has significant potential to harness the opportunities provided by the blue economy and push forward India’s economic growth. However, there are many challenges associated with this, involving all sectors in the economy from private to research and development to NGOs to government policy (Wenhai et al., 2019).



Nearly three-quarters of the Earth's surface is covered by oceans. They also account for 97% of the water present on Earth. Oceans are considered to be the ‘’last frontiers’’ of growth and development. However, we are yet to fully exploit the enormous opportunities that the ocean presents us with (Maini & Budhraja, 2002). There is a need for this potential to be utilized through a balanced approach with due consideration given to its protection and wellbeing. It is also important to ensure that the manner in which the potential is harnessed aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #14, which states that "Oceans, seas and marine resources must be preserved and sustainably used for sustainable development" (Maini & Budhraja, 2002).

In recent years, Oceans are being recognized as new economic centers for major trade and business in the fields of shipping, offshore oil, and energy, fisheries, underwater cables, and tourism. The importance of the Indian Ocean to the economy cannot be ignored, contributing significantly to livelihoods, cultural identities, agriculture, offshore oil, and natural gas resources, tourism, and maritime industries (Shivnath Ninawe & T Indulkar, 2019).


Background on the Blue Economy

It was Professor Gunter Pauli, working at the United Nations University (UNU) who first introduced the concept of ‘Blue Economy’ in 1994. The concept was based on more sustainable environmental development principles, including "no waste and no emission". He believed that the Blue Economy reflected the needs of future growth and prosperity while also being able to solve some of the threats being posed by global warming. OECD even estimated Blue Economy to grow at a rate twice as much as the world economy rates based on pre-pandemic estimates (Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister Government of India, 2020). By using the Indian Ocean as the economic center, the blue economy promotes 95% of businesses in the field of transportation, oil, and petroleum. shipping, oil, and petroleum. (Shivnath Ninawe & T Indulkar, 2019).

Blue economy can help promote sustainable use of natural resources, stimulate innovation, and create opportunities for knowledge-based businesses (Shivnath Ninawe & T Indulkar, 2019). The blue economy is a chance for India to achieve its national socio-economic goals along with strengthening its connectivity with neighboring countries and regions. It will improve and enhance the Indian government's efforts in achieving SDG 1 and SDG 2- eradicating hunger and poverty as well as SDG 14- sustainable use of marine resources (Drishti, 2018).

Sectors involved

All the sectors across the blue economy have the ability to employ a significant number of people and they have been doing so for the past many decades. One such sector is the fishing industry, which alone employs around 16 million fisherfolk and fish farmers at the primary level, and nearly twice that amount farther down the supply chain (Juneja, 2021). The Government believes that through the blue economy, it is likely that the incomes of fishermen and fish farmers would more than double. The shipping industry is also one of Blue Economy's main providers of livelihood, with India ranking 17th in the world, possessing one of the largest commercial shipping fleets in the world (Juneja, 2021).

Marine transportation is considered to be the backbone of the blue economy, representing over 80% of global trade and contributing over 10 billion tonnes for petroleum exports. Present activities are limited to marine materials like minerals, metals, and other commodities which are primarily non-living. In blue economy-related developmental activities it is likely that the priority will be on marine areas to provide shipping services and infrastructure development on land, mechanized floating ports, geo-engineering, and inland waterways, thus avoiding the need for trucks or railways (Shivnath Ninawe & T Indulkar, 2019).

Marine tourism is another field that has been growing rapidly. Coastal tourism has contributed significantly to both the state economies and the development of livelihoods, particularly in coastal states like Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. In Kerala, between 2009 and 2012, about 23 percent of the total number of jobs were provided directly and indirectly by this industry (Juneja, 2021). In 2016, tourism employed 22% of the workforce in Tamil Nadu and 23% of the workforce in Karnataka. The overall share in the work of Tamil Nadu was 22% and Karnataka was 23%.

In the Indian economy, marine biology and biotechnology also generate considerable income. With India forecasting to generate US$100 million in revenue by 2025 from the biological and biotechnology industries, ocean-based resources have tremendous potential and are in great demand. The Department of Biotechnology has taken the initiative to establish a state-of-the-art Center for Ocean Biology and Biotechnology to address various marine-related issues, covering research, education, and specialized training (Shivnath Ninawe & T Indulkar, 2019).

In order for the nation to gain substantial market share in these fields, a strong emphasis must be given to research and development, and innovation in the areas of ocean energy, marine biology, and biotechnology. India needs to exploit the huge potential of the blue economy so that the country can achieve a higher growth trajectory. It can be the tool for India to realize its vision of becoming a $10 billion economy by 2032 (Maini & Budhraja, 2002).


The promotion of the blue economy comes with both obstacles as well as opportunities for New India (Shivnath Ninawe & T Indulkar, 2019). The Sagarmala Project is the primary project undertaken for port-led development using IT-enabled facilities for port modernization. The goal of this project is to promote domestic waterways and coastal shipping, transforming maritime logistics and creating millions of employment opportunities for the people. It is based on the sustainable use of maritime resources, new fishing technologies, coastal tourism, and improvement in the condition of coastal communities (Drishti, 2018). Over Rs. 3 lakh crore has been allocated by the Government for the Sagarmala programme with more than Rs. 1 lakh crore already being implemented as part of various projects listed under the programme (Maini & Budhraja, 2002).

Another initiative is O-SMART, which is an umbrella of schemes that seeks to govern the use of oceans and marine resources and ensures that growth and development take place in a sustainable manner. Coastal Economic Zones (CEZ) were developed so that sea-dependent industries will contribute to global trade. There is also a National Fisheries Policy to promote balanced use of fisheries wealth and other ocean-based resources (Drishti, 2018).

Prospective Fields

With the blue economy growing, new industries such as energy production, ocean thermal energy conservation, marine biology, and biotechnology have emerged. The offshore wind energy industry is the most evolved of all the various renewable energies produced from the oceans (Juneja, 2021).

The role of marine biologists in addressing many of these concerns is becoming increasingly significant in view of the growing impacts on marine environments due to climate change. Their work includes assisting offshore oil and gas firms to mitigate their detrimental effects on marine life, creating marine reserves, and developing artificial reefs/wrecks to support aquatic fauna and flora in a region (Juneja, 2021).

Another recently developing sector is Marine biotechnology which focuses on the investigation of how marine wildlife and organisms can be technologically applied. During 1988-89, the Marine Biotechnology Programme was established to fund research and development projects aimed at producing beneficial marine-based products and processes (Juneja, 2021). At the national level, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) was established in 1998 at the national level, consisting of a Task Force on Aquaculture and Marine Biotechnology that is responsible for individual or network research projects with both foreign and national partners. However, since this field is relatively new and is only in its initial stages of growth, it needs both financial and technological assistance so that it can reach its full potential and fulfill future demands (Juneja, 2021).



The destruction of livelihoods and loss of jobs are among the major repercussions of the Covid 19 pandemic. India is now faced with the arduous task of providing sufficient livelihoods and employment as a country with the second-largest workforce in the world. However, ocean industries like fisheries, transportation, tourism, sea mining, offshore energy resources, ocean research, ocean management, and ocean sciences are some of the main sectors that have the prospect of generating millions of employment opportunities. The Blue Economy framework of India offers stakeholders the required agenda to explore prospects and invest in these industries for long-term benefits (Juneja, 2021).

The world is looking at oceans for new emerging industries and opportunities. But the success of these new industries is entirely dependent on the well-being of the oceans and their long-term sustainability. For this, we need to boost the blue economy which will help deduce appropriate action plans to achieve a balance between economy and environment (Juneja, 2021). The Indian Ocean has enormous commercial potential for the nation, which if utilized efficiently and effectively can propel India’s future economic growth.


Key Takeaways

1. Oceans are becoming the new centers of economic development in this age of advanced technologies. In the areas of shipping, offshore oil and gas, fisheries, undersea cables, and tourism, oceans now account for substantial trade and commerce.

2. Additionally, there are many new sectors and industries emerging such as aquaculture, marine biotechnology, ocean energy, and sea-bed mining, which have the potential to create numerous employment opportunities as well as help the global economy grow immensely.

3. A sustainable and inclusive mechanism for international collaborations is essential so that countries can fully realize the significant economic opportunities presented by the Indian Ocean (Maini & Budhraja, 2002).

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