We are faced with the indisputable fact that we are in the age of the Anthropocene – this is the first time in our history where human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. Our actions are changing the natural balance of the earth and the ocean. Acknowledging this fact, as we celebrate UN World Oceans Day, under the theme of Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean, we highlight the work of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) who are at the forefront of the climate crisis. By combining resources, ideas and innovative solutions these islands are creating a brighter (bluer) future. At UNDP we stand beside our partners so as to foster a global conversation on the greatest challenges facing the oceans and seas, inspiring bold innovative thinking, new partnerships and effective action for a sustainable ocean economy.
Oceans produce more than 50% of the world’s oxygen and its potential for accelerating decarbonisation is the basis of our discourse. The ocean presents substantial climate mitigation and carbon storage options to help limit global warming. It also holds limitless opportunities for economic benefits and ocean-based industries—including tourism, energy production, shipping, fishing and fish processing, and aquaculture it is expected that ocean industries could double to US$3trn by 2030. Let us imagine a healthy ocean with a vital economy. Changing the tide with respect to pollution, seeking and investing in new energy solutions and pioneering innovative ocean-based economies and livelihoods is where we need to focus.
UNDP, especially in the Eastern Caribbean, works with its partners, networks of government and non-government actors, and with communities to protect and revitalize the Ocean and everything it sustains. UNDP’s Global Climate Promise Programme, Global Accelerator Labs and numerous programmes and projects are some of the instruments used in countries. One such innovative solution in the eastern Caribbean islands is BlueDIGITAL, an exciting project that has the potential to support Micro, Small and Medium – sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in key sectors of the Blue Economy such as fisheries and tourism transform to the digital economy and build resilience. This project aims to enhance access to digital tools and solutions while better telling the story of the journey your fish takes from ocean to plate: #FromSEAtoME in order to better connect fishers to consumers, change behaviour on sustainability and build resilience. BlueDIGITAL allows fisherfolk to connect with hotels, restaurants, businesses and individual consumers while rewarding consumers and secondary suppliers for choosing responsibly sourced fish. By acting as an added digital marketplace which is unaffected by physical closures, it allows fisherfolk to still reach potential markets even if physical restrictions are in effect as was experienced during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as market closures due to ashfall. This solution can also help some fishers to monitor their catch and manage their sales becoming more digitally and financially literate. By connecting key sectors and value chains within the Blue Economy ecosystem, BlueDIGITAL also provides an opportunity for government to collect data and for tourism industry partners to be verified by the BlueSEAL based on their sustainability efforts.
Moving to take a closer look at the waters surrounding regional coasts, an influx of Sargassum Seaweed has become a collective blight on the Caribbean. But a common problem, seen by some as an opportunity inspires collaboration for a common solution. The UNDP, through funding from the Government of Japan is embarking on a Project to improve the National Sargassum Management Capacities in the Caribbean which will assist Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. Japan, an island, albeit much bigger than the SIDS of the Caribbean, understands how to deal with this influx of seaweed which is escalating due to warming seas. Through equipment, funding, knowledge sharing and technical support, Japan is helping the region to manage this reality sustainably. Not only does this project clean up the beaches but it offers the possibility of creating additional industry and employment opportunities. With solutions such as this, the Caribbean can change “problems” into “profits”. This type of community-focussed collaboration, support and innovative thinking is essential to find the perfect balance between people and planet.
As the past years have shown us, we need to work together to create a new balance with the Ocean: for people and for planet that no longer depletes but instead restores the Ocean’s vibrancy. It is critical that all perspectives are brought to the table and diverse approaches are explored so that revitalization efforts can complement and amplify each other. Under UNDP’s Blue Economy for Green Islands Approach for economic diversification, job creation and resilience, there have been many blue related projects. From supporting Governments in the region to conducting Blue Economy Scoping Studies to the Accelerator Lab’s BlueDIGITAL to the sargassum project to Blue Invest, UNDP is committed to supporting, working with and learning from diverse ocean community leaders and champions as we reposition Small Island Development States (SIDS) to Big Ocean States (BOS).
Limya Eltayeb, Resident Representative, UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean,
Nikola Simpson, Head of Exploration UNDP Accelerator Lab,
Shara Spencer, Communications Consultant