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On February 2-3, KAS RECAP together with The Energy Resources Institute (TERI) and the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), hosted an online workshop titled “Opportunities and Challenges for a Blue Economy in Asia-Pacific Region in COVID-19 World”. The focus of the workshop is to examine the opportunities and challenges for Asia-Pacific Blue Economy framework that impinges on regional cooperation, resource security, science and technological cooperation and sustainable development.
The first panel discussed the topic of “Economics of Ocean in a COVID-19 World – Role of Blue Economy in Asia-Pacific Recovery”. All panelists agreed that ocean possesses massive potential in aiding economic recovery in the Asia-Pacific, but the key questions are: how may the region extract such potential in aiding recovery? And how to establish and spread good practice in constructing blue economy framework? The experts suggested various blue economy frameworks and noted that in order to establish blue economy, the region needs to recognize that there is, and will be, perpetual weaknesses or characteristics in ocean economy such as sector informality and open access regime. Thus, Asia-Pacific blue economy must cater to these characteristics. Furthermore, the experts noted that recovery is completed when jobs are preserved and created, and when the foundation for rebuilding better is firmly laid. The financial mechanism should also be strong enough to cater to any risks arising in the small and micro enterprises. This would require formulation of uniform policies across countries and their coordination and implementation. Information sharing will be the key to the national and regional cooperation required to ensure the growth of blue economy in the Asia Pacific region along with the active role of the private sector. Thus, blue economy will help develop and drive innovation, best practices and create enabling conditions in technology.
The second panel concerned the topic of “Role of Blue Economy for Ensuring Resource Security in Asia-Pacific”. Preserving the ocean requires international cooperation, but the Asia-Pacific is facing challenges such as the need for more blue investments reaching vulnerable communities and helping communities to cope with upcoming challenges. The panelists suggested some ways of achieving SDG 14 – Life Below Water like integrated ocean management based on stakeholder engagement and coordinated decision-making and regional cooperation that reflects regional priorities and characteristics. However, capacity building and the building of a governance structure would be the key to strengthen blue economy in the Asia Pacific region. The adoption of a bottom-up approach is imperative as the role of local communities in building the governance structure is crucial. The third panel was about “Science for Development – Creating Opportunities for Scientific and Technological Innovations in the Asia-Pacific Region”. Experts presented their unique ongoing projects that aim at preserving the ocean through marine litter reduction and sustainable aquaculture practices. One project concerns tracking the flow of marine litter via GPS, drones and satellite technology so to aid ocean cleanups. Another innovative idea brought up in this panel was adopting smart technology such as internet of things as well as innovative practices and facilities to achieve better aquaculture governance. There also exists great interest in sea plants and fish as sources of biotechnology and it was claimed that a lot of progress has been made with regard to sea cucumbers and sea weeds. To cater to the increasing demands of fish and better-quality fish, studies on breeding technology are also increasing. Hence it was asserted by the speakers that the use of digitization and automatic feeders would greatly help efficiency, as well as contribute to the development of a fully automated aquaculture set up.
The final panel of this workshop was “Understanding and Integrating SDG 14 Goals in the Blue Economy Framework – Challenges, Progress and Next Steps for Asia-Pacific”. The experts of this panel explained that many of the SDG-14 targets are close aligned with other goals in Agenda 2030. Although there are blue economy frameworks established in Asia-Pacific, the implementation of the SDG-14 targets is yet to be seen as these frameworks are more rhetorical. Also, the issue of illegal, unreported, and unreported (IUU) fishing remains the biggest concern for the entire Asia-Pacific region and highlighted the transboundary nature of the ocean as well the urgent need for transnational effort in achieving SDG-14 targets.
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