Given the coastal and environmental opportunities and challenge facing the Western Indian Ocean (WIO), it makes sense to better integrate existing legal and management tools, and look for creative and novel solutions to existing problems (UNEP-Nairobi Convention & WIOMSA 2015).
Economic activities that takes place in the ocean space, receives goods and services from ocean activities and ocean activity (to the ocean) has been recognised as a major contributor to national economies (Park et al. 2014). This contribution (formally recognised or not) forms part of the ocean economy of countries.
There is increasing emphasis on the sustainable use of ocean and coastal resources in what has become known as the “blue” or sustainable ocean economy (hereafter the Blue Economy). The Blue Economy is a recent and developing paradigm, and the transition from an ocean economy (as a purely economic construct) to a Blue Economy (sustainable ocean economy) will be a complex, long-term undertaking. Even so, the ocean will become an economic force this century (Economist Intelligence Unit 2015).
The Blue Economy is globally (UNEP et al. 2010; Hoegh-Guldberg & et al. 2015), continentally (UNECA 2016; ECORYS et al. 2012; Commission of the European Communities 2007; African Union 2012) and in the WIO (UNCTAD 2014; Mohanty et al. 2015; Kelleher 2015) promoted as the “right and responsible way” to secure and maintain benefit from coastal and ocean resources.
There is also a growing awareness of the Blue Economy within Contracting Parties to the Nairobi Convention. The Government of Seychelles has adopted the Blue Economy Concept1, Mauritius is investing in the Ocean Economy2 and the Republic of South Africa has developed Operation Phakisa3 to unlock the economic potential of the ocean in a sustainable manner.
Implementing the Blue Economy requires a “toolbox” with a number of existing, new and often better strategies (African Union 2012; Commission of the European Communities 2007; UNECA 2016). These include integrated maritime strategies and policies, integrated coastal management, marine protected areas etc. One of the highly-rated and promoted tools is known as ecosystem-based marine spatial planning (Douvere & Ehler 2006; Douvere 2008; Domínguez-Tejo et al. 2016).
It has been argued that the Blue Economy makes its strongest gains when leveraging existing institutional relationships to address strategic gaps that affect multiple sectors and players, and which catalyse visible benefits for them in the long term (UNEP 2015). Ecosystem-based management, marine spatial planning (MSP), integrated coastal management (ICM) and the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) are established elements in support of the Blue Economy.
“Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a public process of analysing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic, and social objectives that are usually specified through a political process” (Ehler & Douvere 2009). Ecosystem-based MSP is also characterised as “hard” sustainability - that natural capital cannot be substituted by man-made capital (Qiu & Jones 2013).