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San Diego Skyline with Moon
San Diego, CA, USA (Credit: John Bahu shared via Pixabay )

The Center for the Blue Economy leads the effort to measure the economic contributions of oceans and coastlines at the local, regional, state, national, and international levels.

Policies and practices affecting ocean and coastal resource management decisions should be informed by the perspectives and tools of economics and based on reliable, consistent, and comprehensive data. Our research focuses on two areas—the “Blue Economy” as an organizing framework for deriving wealth from the oceans on a sustainable basis and the economics of climate change adaptation in coastal regions. Below are some examples of the impacts of our work. 

Cemex Sand Mine Monterey Bay
The CEMEX mine on the Monterey Bay uses high tides to push sand into a dredge pond for extraction. (Credit: Karen Loutzenheiser )

Impact Locally: The Tourist Economy vs. the Consumptive Economy

The Monterey Bay CEMEX sand mine is the last coastal sand mine in the United States. It opened in 1906 in response to construction needs after the great San Francisco earthquake. Each year, this mine extracts roughly 250,000 cubic yards of sand, equivalent to a block of sand 10 feet high, 100 feet wide, and over one mile long. The much-visited and economically important beaches to the south are losing sand faster than anywhere else in the state. In April of 2017, the Center for the Blue Economy wrote a letter to the California Coastal Commission and the State Lands Board outlining the negative economic impacts of the sand mine to the tourist economy. This followed many years of activism and efforts from the community to bring this issue to the forefront. In July of 2017, the California Coastal Commission unanimously agreed to settle with CEMEX, allowing them three years to end their sand extraction. It was a long battle, and the Center for the Blue Economy is glad to have played a part.

Stillwell Hall Monterey Bay Circa 2002
Stilwell Hall, built in 1940 on Fort Ord, was torn down after severe coastal erosion threatened structural collapse.
  (Credit: Vern Fisher - Monterey Herald-Feb. 2016 )

Impact at State Level: Community Risk Assessment Tools for California

Coastal erosion coupled with sea-level rise is a pressing issue throughout much of the California coast. With funding from NOAA Sea Grant, the Center for the Blue Economy is designing and piloting a new process for choosing coastal adaptation strategies that can show the consequences of different decisions using computer simulations. Understanding the magnitude and timing of risks where history provides no guide to the future is the central problem in climate change adaptation. With the Center for the Blue Economy tool, communities will be able to understand what the costs and benefits of different strategies are likely to be. They can decide on the best way to deploy their options over time so as to minimize the risks of acting and consequences of not acting.

Sun shining over the ocean-expansive
Sun, sea, and sky (Credit: Pixabay Public Domain Images )

Impact at the National Level: Official “U.S. Ocean Satellite Accounts”

You’ve heard of “Ocean Satellite Accounts,” right? No? Well, that could be because they do not exist—yet. Market sectors such as healthcare, energy, and agriculture have special “satellite accounts” monitored by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis that provide important details of those industrial sectors. There is no such thing for the oceans, although the ocean economy consistently generates a larger share of the U.S. economy than any other major natural resource industry, including agriculture, forestry, and oil and gas. In 2017, the Center for the Blue Economy and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute began work to jointly assist the U.S. government in the creation of an official Ocean Satellite Account. 

Container ship approaching offloading cranes SF or Oakland Bay Area CA
Shipping containers and unloading cranes in the San Francisco Bay (Credit: Casey Christopherson )

Impact at the International Level: Measuring the Blue Economy Worldwide

In 2015, the Center for the Blue Economy hosted the first Oceans in International Income Accounts symposium with 26 attendees representing 10 countries. This was the start of an important global conversation on how to define and measure the ocean economy within a national income accounting system. The third annual Oceans in International Income Accounts symposium was hosted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, France, in 2017, with 71 people representing 26 countries. Not only is the Center for the Blue Economy a leader in fostering this growing movement, we are also leading the way in “metadata analysis.” Metadata is data about data—a standard way of describing the oceans in national income accounts. This will allow us to compare data between nations.