29th June 2021
It’s the outlook that we can all too easily take for granted. Our beautiful island is surrounded by water which provides a stunning backdrop for our daily lives. Chamber is working to help protect and appreciate it more and find ways to put it to sustainably suitable use for all of our benefit.
Walk on the cliffs, watch the sunset at Cobo or enjoy an east coast sunrise swim and the impact of our natural environment imparts its powerful presence.
While the natural world element of our surrounding seas is always uppermost in minds and hearts, Chamber is working to identify opportunities around the power and presence of our marine environment. The Blue Economy is potentially one of our most valuable resources and links us, seamlessly, to a world in which two thirds of the earth’s surface is covered in water.
Historically, the island respected and benefited from our demographic position near major trade routes and used entirely natural products such as vraic to boost locally grown crops. In fact, much of Guernsey’s early wealth was derived from activities at sea.
Chamber’s Blue Economy Industry Group is identifying present day opportunities, while at the same time keeping front of mind the need to safeguard our seas. There is also the added challenge of climate change and the immense power behind the huge tides which are part of our everyday lives.
As the United Nations recently recognised, while the oceans are increasingly becoming a source of food, energy, and products such as medicines and enzymes, there is also now a better understanding of the non-market goods and services that the oceans provide, which are vital for life on Earth. People also understand that the oceans are not limitless and that they are suffering from increasing and often cumulative human impacts. Oceans that are not healthy and resilient are not able to support economic growth.
With an estimated 80 percent of the volume of world trade carried by sea, shipping and ports provide crucial linkages in global supply chains and are essential for the ability of all countries to gain access to global markets. Guernsey, meanwhile, has only limited ferry and goods links to our European neighbours – a situation Chamber is investigating and working to resolve with both government and private sector.
Many of our goods are shipped from Europe, past our shores, to the UK and then brought back across the Channel. Whilst scale and supply are a major challenge to understand, it appears illogical that the circuit involving France to England, laps of the M25, thousands of trips by polluting trucks and duplicate cross Channel activity to finally get here is currently our only system.
Chamber has been in discussions with interested parties about the potential for a French freight link and will continue to discuss any opportunities with bodies such as the Breton Chamber of Commerce and Department of Economic Development and our Norman neighbours.
The Blue Economy could also provide us with sustainable power, enhanced tourism sector offerings and business potential around the sea itself. Guernsey has been wise in its management of fish and shellfish and our tidal range can enable concepts based on clean sea water filling our bays and harbours twice a day.
This economic sector has diverse components, including established traditional ocean industries such as fisheries, tourism, and maritime transport, but also new and emerging activities, such as offshore renewable energy, aquaculture, seabed extractive activities, and marine biotechnology and bioprospecting.
It also has huge value as a connector and that awareness triggered a boatbuilding industry and trade routes from here in locally built ships which linked Guernsey with Canada, South America and Africa.
The Blue Economy goes beyond viewing the seas purely as a mechanism for economic growth. As the UN highlights, “Small island states, relative to their land mass, have vast ocean resources at their disposal – presenting a huge opportunity for boosting their economic growth and to tackle unemployment, food security and poverty. They also have the most to lose from the degradation of marine resources”. It’s a sobering thought for our sea-loving community.
DID YOU KNOW
- The worldwide ocean economy is valued at around US$1.5 trillion per year.
- Eighty percent of global trade by volume is carried by sea.
- 350 million jobs world-wide are linked to fisheries.
- By 2025 it is estimated that 34% of crude oil production will come from offshore fields.
- Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector and provides about 50% of fish for human consumption.