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Portugal's Blue Economy - "Greedy speculators with dubious ethical credentials"?

Currently there’s plenty of hype about the “Blue Economy”, but for the majority of the people that hears it being branded left, right and center by government officials, some NGO’s, Think Tanks, academics and many so called experts … the fact remains that the majority of the people haven’t a clue of what it means.

The challenge in our opinion is that the general term of “Blue Economy” has in fact two very different baseline concepts underpinning each of them.


One is based on the concept that as a latecomer to Nature as a species, we have turned our backs on the laws of nature, and we need to revisit our sustainability models, the other is based purely on maximizing profits for a few shareholders by “raping” the oceans unexplored resources, and propagating the “fear of scarcity” of resources as the main driver.


Let’s take a look at both “Blue Economy” models.

The “Blue Economy” as the Nature Based Concept

This economic philosophy was first introduced in 1994 by Prof. Gunter Pauli when asked by the United Nations to conceptualize new business models of the future in preparation for COP3 in Japan during the acceptance by various countries of the Kyoto Protocol.




According to Prof. Gunter Pauli, his “Blue Economy” model promotes a shift towards a business model that responds to the basic needs of all, using resources that are locally available in a responsible manner. He went on to say “We need a model that allows producers to offer the best products at the lowest prices by introducing innovations that generate multiple benefits, not just increased profits.” This “Blue Economy” business model goes beyond the Globalization Model, as well as the Green Economy.


In his “Blue Economy” model, Pauli believed that as long as corporate executives wish to pursue economies of scale, based on standardized products, secured worldwide through just-in-time deliveries and outsourcing where labour productivity is the key to success, jobless rate will continue to rise globally, while excluding larger and large parts of the global population. However, if the business model evolves towards the full use of all its available resources in a responsible manner by building clusters activities and cascades to higher levels of efficiency, then a new model will indeed emerge.

Companies have focused excessively on cutting costs and therefore pursued a global strategy looking for the cheapest and most flexible place of manufacturing or service delivery. However, the drive towards ever cheaper products has resulted in an increased deprivation of cash in local economies, which have less employment but also less purchasing power, thus leading to less money circulating in the communities and this results in an economic contraction as is being experienced in numerous economies, not the least in Portugal, Spain and Greece - countries that suffered also from excessive government expenditure.


The power of this "Blue Economy" is that is injects money back into the local economy, and contrary to traditional belief, it offers high quality products at a lower cost price, and that this "Blue Economy" applies to any business sector. In addition to the reinjection of cash into the local economy, and the use of locally available resources it is dedicated to eliminate whatever is not needed.

Information extracted from the originater of "The Blue Economy" concept – which you can find here http://www.theblueeconomy.org/


Further development of The “Blue Economy” concept

His initial idea (Pauli) was further developed and embraced in 2009 by two individuals in Europe (Mr. Haastert and Ms. Kuhlemannand) who then together drafted the following strategy and principles:

The Earth’s limited resources pose “carrying capacities” for populations of species – the number of individuals an environment can sustain. Yet through efficient use of resources and energy, and evolving clever mechanisms to adapt to and overcome environmental conditions and challenges, ecosystems have maximised the sustainable sizes of diverse populations.

Nature constantly increases its efficiency and has proven to be the most economic actor of our planet. The first industrial revolution lead to modern day pollution; the second industrial revolution allowed humans to grasp the extent of threat this destruction poses to our own lives: we have recklessly passed our carrying capacity. The general public feels helpless in finding a way out. Human production and consumption patterns are no longer sustainable.


Numerous examples around the world prove that we can imitate nature’s designs, perfected over millions of years, in our own production – using the waste of one product as the input for another. These innovations will revolutionize the industries they are applied in, making consumption of those products a positive action. Thus, it will become possible to live in a sustainable way, responding to all basic needs for water, food, energy, health and shelter. Thinking in systems and cycles, we become witness to the dawn of the 3rd industrial revolution!


Basic Criteria underpining this "Blue Economy" framework

  1. local (use what you have)
  2. efficient (substitute something with nothing)
  3. systemic (mimic nature)
  4. profitable (optimize & generate multiple cash flows)
  5. abundant (satisfy all basic needs)
  6. innovative (create change, seize opportunities)

You can read more about it here: http://www.blueeconomy.eu 

Or you can watch a video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoe1-a-ZGnE

NOTE: In the last quarter of 2015, there was a split between Pauli and his other two colleagues, and each are now pursuing the same “Blue Economy” concept in parallel systems.

The “Blue Economy” as the Economy of the Sea | Ocean Economy Concept




Seen through the eyes of the European Commission

Talk of the ocean as a new economic frontier, of a new phase of industrialisation of the seas, has become widespread since 2016, and is now in the public arena.. 

The ocean already has its share of industry: shipping, under-sea cables, offshore oil and gas, fishing, tourism and more. With the exception of fisheries, where recovery of depleted stocks will require a range of reforms, most are expected to grow rapidly in the coming decades, in parallel with rising global income, consumption and population. The European Commission has identified five growth areas: aquaculture, coastal tourism, marine biotechnology, ocean energy and sea-bed mining.


However, the promise of blue growth is rendered less tangible by a peculiarity of ocean economics: the absence of sound measurement.


Not all countries calculate their “ocean GDP”. Comparing the findings of those that do is complicated by different measurement systems and by the often blurred lines between coastal and ocean activity. So estimating the size of the flow of goods and services in the global ocean economy is surprisingly difficult. WWF, an environmental group, had a stab in a report released in 2015: it put the world’s annual “gross marine product” at $2.5 trillion.


"Blue Growth" Identified Areas by the EC



Still less is known about the non-market goods and services provided by the ocean: the value of a reef’s protection against storm surges, or the ocean’s capacity to sequester carbon dioxide. WWF estimates an underlying “asset” base of $24 trillion. How much this natural capital is eroded by human activity, and how much benefit is derived from it, public and private, remains a big knowledge gap, and an impediment to decision-making, notes the UN’s first “global marine assessment”, also released in 2015.


Another warning comes from the European Marine Board. In a recent report it highlights the dangers of the emerging “deep blue economy”, in seas deeper than 200 metres.

New technologies are opening up waters hitherto unexplored and out of reach, while science, policy and governance scramble to keep pace. The fear is that fragile deep-sea ecosystems will be damaged before they are properly understood. Just 0.0001% of the deep sea has been sampled biologically.


A European Parliament study of the EU’s blue-growth strategy raised questions about how policy could be implemented given knowledge gaps on marine life, on seabed resources, and on the risks and opportunities of further economic activity in Europe’s seas. As competition for ocean space intensifies, these same shortcomings—compounded by legal and institutional constraints—will mean that for most countries striking a balance between encouraging economic growth in the ocean and nurturing the health of ocean ecosystems will be a complex, long-term undertaking.


According to an article in “The Economist” - Deep-sea mining is both totem and taboo for the new ocean economy. It reflects the promise of what is loosely termed the “blue economy” as well as its dangers and pitfalls. (You can download a study published by The Economist Intelligence Unit in the attachment section at the end of this article).


The first commercial mining operation is expect to start towards the end of 2017, beginning 2018, when Nautilus Minerals, a Canadian company, gouges copper off the seabed in 1,600 metres of water at its Solwara-1 concession off Papua New Guinea in spite of strong opposition by the local population and the broader international ocean protection activists.  This is the same company that has been extensively engaged with the Portuguese government and has its eyes on obtaining concessions in the offshore of Açores in the very near future.

Yet deep-sea mining has come to symbolise the tension between growth and conservation in the seas - between the need to find new providers of jobs and natural resources, as terrestrial opportunities flag, and that of arresting the decline in health of ocean ecosystems.


Our Understanding of the "Blue Economy" in Portugal




In Portugal, in the last few months the topic has left the closed ranks of a relative small group of people that are aware and have been working within the various areas of the “Blue Economy” project concept, and is now for the first time really starting to be showcased as part of the Portuguese government national agenda for economic development - which will be in our opinion, nothing more than a type of "Blue Washing" in action.


It is our opinion that the Portuguese Government has a vision to transform Portugal into an ocean state by promoting the ocean economy as one of its main pillars of development. This strategy is being driven by various Portuguese lobbying organisations such as the Gulbenkian Foundation (Oceans Iniciative), The Fundação Oceano Azul (Blue Ocean Foundation), Forum Oceano XXI, various universities, many other bodies, not to mention many private interests as well.


This project falls within the Ministry of the Sea portfolio, and as we recently became aware the Minister of the Sea (Ana Paula Vitorino) has been kept busy as you can see in the video where she's seen “selling/begging for investors” for our marine resources in the international markets.

 As the "alledged resource scarcity" increases in continental areas and prospective and extractive technologies progress, the exploitation of mineral, energy (including methane hydrates) and genetic resources in the deep seabed is becoming increasingly feasible. Many of these resources are found on the continental shelves and their extension areas, making these areas of soil and subsoil new sources of wealth for coastal States.

The scientific exploration of the national seabed remains limited and poorly characterised. However, the data and knowledge gained over the years through scientific research campaigns and cruises dedicated to the purposes of the CSEP have allowed the vast potential of the different resources found on the continental shelf of Portugal to be identified.




We have no doubts, that the living and non-living resources of the seabed are increasingly seen as an alternative to the exploitation of such resources on land by greedy speculators with "dubious ethical credentials".

 One serious area of concern for us at ASMAA has been the lack of transparency, the obfuscation and the blatant lies by senior governmental leaders regarding offshore and onshore oil and gas exploration processes. These actions give us a "blueprint" of what to expect in the future as Portugal delves further, and further into the development of their style of "Blue Economy / Economy of the Sea / Oceans Economy".


We can expect major campaigns "selling | brainwashing" the population with a wide range of "ficitious benefits" for the country and for the Portuguese people. As a result, we believe its important that the people of Portugal be informed, as only informed people will be in a position to act against the threats in our horizon. Threats that will have far greater impact not only for ourselves, our environment, our children and all future generations ... in fact we are looking at greater risks that will have put in question the survival of mankind.



Some Reference Websites relating to Portugal "Blue Economy Venture":

  1. http://www.emepc.pt
  2. http://webgis.dgrm.mam.gov.pt/arcgis/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=df8accb510bc4f33963d9b03bf3674b8&extent=-9.862%2C36.9517%2C-8.8478%2C37.4866
  3. http://www.profitecla.pt/protocolo-forum-oceanos/
  4. http://www.oceano21.org/
  5. http://www.forumoceano.pt/
  6. https://www.oceanoazulfoundation.org/
  7. https://gulbenkian.pt/en/initiatives/gulbenkian-oceans-initiative/
  8. www.dgpm.gov.pt/Pages/default.aspx
  9. http://www.ipma.pt/pt/
  10. https://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/policy/sea_basins/atlantic_ocean_pt
  11. http://www.bluemed-project.eu


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