As the predominant feature on earth, the oceans are beginning to be recognized for their massive economic value. National Geographic is conducting a study Mapping Ocean Wealth to begin to understand what these commons mean to all the people of our planet.
“Developing a Blue Economy in China and the United States,” a new report released by the Center for American Progress, explores how the United States and China can learn from each other and cooperate to establish thriving Blue Economies: economies that optimize and sustain both the economic and environmental benefits provided by marine resources. “As the world’s two economic juggernauts, the United States and China have an opportunity and a responsibility to lead other nations toward a future that recognizes the fiscal benefits of environmental sustainability. Long-term economic growth is inextricably linked to the ocean’s environmental health. Sometimes, giving nature a little breathing space to do her thing can actually produce greater benefits than resource exploitation,” said Michael Conathan, CAP Director of Ocean Policy
In a disturbing development, China is building what an American admiral, Harry Harris, calls a “great wall of sand” in the strategically important waterways of the South China Sea. New islands are usually formed by volcanoes erupting from the seafloor, but China is on an island-building spree on a group of low-lying coral atolls and reefs called the Spratly Islands between the Philippines and Vietnam, far outside its territorial waters.
Marine experts worry about the effect on marine life. The Spratlys contain major fishing grounds for several Asian nations, and the local marine biodiversity has already been on a steep decline. Last week, amid heightening regional tensions, a US spy plane flew deliberately into the disputed region to raise awareness of China’s massive land reclamation activities in the disputed waters. Beijing bluntly told the world it would not tolerate any party violating its overseas interests and would expand its naval power as part of a military strategy that aims to extend its offshore reach.
Closer to home, the State Department removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, 54 years after the U.S. severed ties after Cuba’s communist revolution. While the lack of Cuban industrial development may have ha a negative effect on the Cuban people, it seems to have had a positive one on their ocean environment. Marine scientist and environmental economist David E. Guggenheim, tells of a marine park off southwestern Cuba known as the Jardines de la Reina, or Gardens of the Queen, alive with fish and coral species that have all but disappeared in other parts of the Caribbean and Florida. “It was like traveling back in time 500 years,” he said. “It’s still the most pristine coral environment I’ve ever seen.”
We will need to forge a way for nations to cooperate such that the wealth of the sea can continue to feed our grandchildren.
All the best,
from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team