The economy of the sea


So many of us enjoy living near the sea, yet how much do we know about its economy and governance? Professor Guy Standing’s new book tells us all we need to know. The Blue Commons – Rescuing the Economy of the Sea was launched at the Pig in Hastings on May 25.

Even as recently as a century ago, the sea was seen to belong to everyone and no-one. For much of human history, the notion of owning the sea would have seemed absurd. Yet by the end of last century, nations had carved up the sea, establishing property rights that have turned the blue commons into zones of exclusion and private profit.

The world’s failure to manage and protect the oceans as a commons belonging to us all, is wreaking havoc on ocean ecosystems and those who rely on it for their livelihood.

The sea provides more than half the oxygen we breathe, a home to three quarters of all life on Earth, food for billions of people and livelihoods for hundreds of millions. But giant corporations are plundering the world’s oceans, aided by global finance and complicit states, following the neoliberal maxim of Blue Growth.

The situation is dire: rampant exploitation and corruption now drive all aspects of the ocean economy, destroying communities, intensifying inequalities, and driving fish populations and other ocean life towards extinction.

The sea is criminogenic, which means it is far more subject to crime than land or elsewhere. Why? Largely due to it being politically ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Guy Standing looks at all the issues: fisheries, ‘commercial’ fishing, aquaculture, sea mining and pollution by noise, plastics and forever chemicals.

‘The Blue Commons’ is an urgent call for change, from a campaigning economist responsible for some of the most innovative solutions to inequality of recent times. From large nations bullying smaller nations into giving up eco-friendly fishing policies to the profiteering by the Crown Estate in commandeering much of the British seabed, the scale of the global problem is synthesised here for the first time, as well as a toolkit for all of us to rise up and tackle it.

The oceans have been left out of calls for a Green New Deal but must be at the centre of the fight against climate change. How do we do it? By building a Blue Commons alternative: a transformative worldview and new set of proposals that prioritise the historic rights of local communities, the wellbeing of all people and, with it, the health of our oceans.

Image Credits: Kt bruce .

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