Just what is a sustainable ocean economy, and why should we get excited about it? That is the subject of the first in a relaunched series of WRI podcasts named “Big Ideas into Action.”

Subscribe to the series on SoundCloud or Apple Podcasts.

About the Episode: The Sustainable Ocean Economy

Put simply, a sustainable ocean economy is one where humanity effectively safeguards marine and coastal ecosystems, uses ocean resources such as seafood in a sustainable way, and ensures that benefits from the ocean and ocean industries are shared fairly and can last into the future.

So should we get excited about transitioning to a sustainable ocean economy? The answer is yes. A healthy ocean is central to human life, with around a third of the world’s people living within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the coast. It is a phenomenal resource, providing 3 billion people with their daily protein and absorbing a quarter of all CO2 emissions. It’s also vital for our collective prosperity, a provider of millions of jobs and a connector between different people and different lands.

This first episode of “Big Ideas into Action” looks at two of the special reports that were commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. The first explores the benefits associated with investing in the ocean economy finding that at least $5 is gained for every $1 invested in areas like offshore wind energy, decarbonizing shipping, sustainable ocean food production, and conserving & restoring mangroves.

The second looks at the important role the ocean economy can play in supporting global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

How do these ideas translate into action? Who better to tell us than two governmental leaders, in the shape of the Prime Minister of Norway, and the President of Palau (representing two of the fourteen countries that make up the Ocean Panel). They explain how these papers are shaping their policies in two very different oceanic contexts.

Finally, we hear from one of our WRI colleagues about how growing up a few minutes away from the beaches of Hong Kong shaped her career decisions, in a new feature called “People of WRI.”

Longer versions of the interviews can be found on the Ocean Panel’s Soundcloud page.

Highlights from the Episode

“These investments are not just about economic recoveries, though they deliver them. It is for protecting the people and protecting the planet. We need to stop thinking about oceans as just a victim of climate change, and start talking about how ocean-based solutions can help achieve economic recovery post-Covid, and build in resilience in the system.”

Mansi Konar lead author of “A sustainable ocean economy for 2050: approximating its benefits and costs”


“The benefits [of mangrove protection] are provided in terms of coastal protections, for instance protecting local people from storm surges and cyclones and sea level rise. They also provide important sequestration benefits from carbon mitigation. And they provide important nursery grounds for fisheries protections in local communities”

Helen Ding, co-author of “A sustainable ocean economy for 2050: approximating its benefits and costs”


Very few of the [post-Covid recovery] measures that have been announced to date target the ocean economy. And even less is aimed at using this moment to invest in a sustainable and equitable ocean economy that is fit for improving economic growth, economic resilience in the communities that rely on the ocean. This is a really significant missed opportunity.”

Eliza Northrop, lead author of “A sustainable and equitable Blue Recovery to the Covid-19 crisis”


“We can’t just have a conventional view of looking at the oceans just for working against the challenges that we see with pollution in the oceans. We have to work on sustainable economic development, the interdependence between jobs creation and clean oceans. Making sure that these economies are functioning for countries is extremely important for us.”

Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway


“All over the world the ocean economy, ocean workers and coastal communities have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, and we have been impacted likewise. There is an opportunity here in new stimulus packages and international funding support, to put us on a course towards more equitable, resilient and sustainable ocean economies. Blue recoveries go hand-in-hand with green ones.”

Tommy Remengesau Jr, President of Palau


Mentioned in this episode:


WRI serves as the Secretariat for the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel). The Ocean Panel is a unique initiative of 14 serving world leaders building momentum towards a sustainable ocean economy, where effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity go hand-in-hand.

Read the latest research from the Ocean Panel


Follow the Ocean Panel on Twitter @oceanpanel