The Blue Acceleration – The trajectory of human expansion into the ocean

the proportion of commercial fish stocks that are overfished has tripled over the past 40 years,

Links with climate change

The blue acceleration is also occurring within a highly dynamic and changing context.108,109 Climate change is already driving fish species migrations to higher latitudes and into new jurisdictional areas,110 forcing aquaculture to move where environmental conditions are more favorable,35 and opening up new areas for claims to be made, such as drilling for hydrocarbons and new shipping routes as a result of the contracting Arctic ice sheet

Steps forward

although the ocean is often considered a single unit in both aspirational and cautionary narratives, it is highly heterogeneous from biophysical, social, and legal perspectives. Confronting the challenges associated with the blue acceleration therefore requires improved knowledge on where the claims are being made, the extent of resources available, and the stakeholders that will be affected. The framework we present here provides a systemic view of multiple ocean claims and trends over time, but corresponding analyses of their interactions, possible trade-offs, and social-ecological consequences remain to be done. This would allow for the mapping of areas of potential overlap and help inform the design of integrated governance structures, such as dynamic marine spatial planning131

Who are the actors?

Second, greater attention should be directed to the actors placing the claims. Previous investigations have documented a high degree of consolidation among nations and companies involved in the global seafood industry132,133 or in the patenting of marine genetic resources.38 Identifying and engaging key corporate actors behind ocean claims would allow capitalizing on the increasing appetite of the private sector to consider biosphere stewardship.

Who is Financing the Acceleration?

Third, a focus on who and what is financing the blue acceleration could unlock powerful leverage points 140,141 Incorporating more stringent sustainability criteria into ocean finance, be it from governments,142 philanthropies,143 insurance brokers,144 banks or stock exchanges,141 would redirect capital toward improved practices and accelerate action for a sustainable ocean economy. Blue bonds and other impact investment tools have emerged in recent years, but they represent only a small portion of financial flows.

Social & Equity Issues on Par with Environmental

Fourth, concerns have been raised over who is to gain from the blue acceleration. Benefits disproportionately flow to economically powerful states and corporations, whereas harms are largely affecting developing nations and local communities. 139,147,148 The vulnerability of small-island developing states and least-developed countries to the impacts of climate change faces the risk of being further augmented. Consequently, a growing number of studies are highlighting the need for social and equity issues to be considered on par with environmental concerns in discussions about ocean futures.