Barbados’ blue economy is filled with opportunities and new prospects.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, identified the health of the ocean; the ability to produce more fish; getting more persons involved in ocean activities, such as sports and restoring the corals; energy; and a bio future, as some of those opportunities which could be of potential benefit to the country.
He outlined these points as he spoke on the CBC TV 8 programme Link Up on the topic Small But Strategic, earlier this week.
“We have not necessarily benefited in a way that we should have benefited for the role that we play. But, if you look at collectively across the Caribbean, our exclusive economic zone for the most part, is about 30 times the size of our terrestrial space,” he said.
But, Mr. Humphrey stressed that while there were opportunities to use the ocean space to generate revenue and create economic growth, it was necessary to do so in a way that was respectful to the ocean, and in a sustainable way.
He explained that with bio future, Government was presently in discussions across the world with the assistance of the Coastal Zone Management Unit, and led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, in what they call “the Boundaries Beyond National Jurisdictions”.
“Across the world, there are people using ocean space now to develop medicine. We have our own water, but right outside of those waters, international water persons are exploring and finding all these minerals and chemicals and various things that they could use to create cures for diseases. That’s is going to be a trillion-dollar industry, and Barbados has to get involved in it,” Mr. Humphrey stated.
He added that the island also stood to benefit in terms of energy, and Government was seeking to see how it could maximize the use of energy in its operations.
The Minister also stated that efforts were under way to install solar panels on the roofs of several fish markets across the island.
“That will be used to generate enough energy to save about $21,000 or so a month to be able to use for Barbados, and to use for the industry,” he said.
However, he noted that on a larger scale, energy could be very transformative. “As it stands, the Caribbean currently uses about 2,036 megawatts of energy. We have done studies through the CDB (Caribbean Development Bank) that suggest Barbados can produce 8, 693 megawatts.
“That is enough energy to satisfy Barbados and all the Caribbean, if we use the ocean’s base,” Mr. Humphrey highlighted.
He added that there will also be opportunities in the production of “clean water”, especially during the drought, and the possibility of desalination being the way forward at some point in time.
At another level, the Minister Humphrey said the Ministry was talking to the Barbados Yacht Club, and to fisherman about the prospect of training young people to work on the sea and on cruise ships. “There is a whole productive side to the blue economy that we have to maximize,” he stated.
However, while recognizing the potential for opportunity, the Minister said it was important to acknowledge the fact that Barbados could not achieve them on its own.
He explained that Barbados already had some “really good” partnerships with the United Nations and other international agencies to achieve its objectives.
During the interview, Mr. Humphrey, however, pointed out that there were challenges confronting the blue economy.
Those, he said, included issues related to climate change, coral reefs being at risk because of warmer sea temperatures, debt, possibilities of being affected by a category four or five hurricane, chronic diseases, and more recently, the COVID-19 virus.