top of page


Steering a Blue Economy

By Lillian M. Saul and Evan J. Andrews, OFI Module I

Between June 20 to 22, 2022, leaders from community leaders, industry representatives, policy makers, and researchers will meet in St. John’s for the 4th World Small-Scale Fisheries Congress (4WSFC): North America. Under discussion will be one of six core themes for the regional congress—Getting the Blue Economy Right. Originally an idea to advance growth for small island states and lesser developed coastal jurisdictions, coastal nations around the world are making commitments to foster a Blue Economy. Canada is no different. In 2020, during Canada’s Speech from the Throne (2020), the then Governor General, the Right Honourable Julie Payette stated that the Canadian government will

“Look at continuing to grow Canada’s ocean economy to create opportunities for fishers and coastal communities, while advancing reconciliation and conservation objectives. Investing in the Blue Economy will help Canada prosper

With the interest in Canada and across the world on developing a Blue Economy, opportunities exist at the 4WSFC regional congress to address questions such as what is a Blue Economy? And importantly, what needs to be done to get a Blue Economy right and for whom? To prepare for these discussions, Ocean Frontier Institute Module I (OFI-I) researchers have been working to engage in discussions to inform the Blue Economy for Atlantic Canada and beyond. In previous newsletter issues, we have reported OFI-I researchers’ participation in the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Blue Economy Round Table as well as Blue Economy discussions hosted by the Harris Centre. In focus this month are examples of research that will shape discussions at the St. John’s Congress about how to get the Blue Economy right.

Congress attendees will be discussing a Blue Economy exactly 10 years after it gained international prominence, between June 20-22, 2012 during the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In advance of the UNCSD, the Blue Economy was associated with the idea of growth, or Blue Growth, drawing parallels to terrestrial sustainable development initiatives associated with a Green Economy. At the UNCSD, competing perspectives existed about what a Blue Economy meant, or could mean for coastal nations seeking sustainable ocean development. Now, as countries develop their plans for a Blue Economy, researchers are drawing attention to the need to consider multiple goals within the sustainable development. OFI-I researchers, such as Memorial University’s Dr. Gerald Singh has focused on improving understanding about the realities of governing a Blue Economy as part of the Blue Economy planning. He points to the need to build capacity for policy makers and researchers to collaborate on holistic and creative approaches for a sustainable and equitable Blue Economy. As another example, a paper in Nature led by Dr. Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor and co-authored by Singh along with his colleagues from the Ocean Nexus Centre, shows that identifying ‘governance’ as one of several key enabling factors is a “foundational step towards a strategic approach to achieving a Blue Economy”.

The conversation about Blue Economy is also taking place in Newfoundland and Labrador. Recently, the Marine Institute hosted a three-day virtual symposium, Propelling the Blue Economy: Connecting our Oceans, Our People, Our Future (November 24-26, 2021). With a strong focus in the areas of technology and innovation for environmental stewardship by hosting, the symposium aimed to provide:

“An interdisciplinary platform for researchers, practitioners, and educators to present and discuss the most recent innovations, trends, and solutions to assist in the development of a common framework that will contribute to the development of a sustainable Blue Economy.”

Lillian Saul and Evan Andrews of OFI-I were in attendance and enjoyed learning about innovations such as Maritime Autonomous Ship Systems, as well as strategies for carbon sequestration and storage. As well, they engaged in discussions about topics closely related to their work such as commercial fisheries value chains, resilience through change in ocean sectors, and community-based knowledge and training for fisheries development. They found relevant connections between Blue Economy and the research themes in in OFI-I, such as Recruitment, Training, and Retention, Vulnerability and Viability and Marine Safety and Fishers’ Knowledge. Symposium presenters identified the need to better understand and overcome challenges related to collective action, policy, and regulations. They remarked how it would be useful for Marine Institute presenters to get involved in the Regional Congress, and share knowledge about the role of technology and innovation in Getting the Blue Economy Right. Similarly, OFI-I researchers can offer Marine Institute researchers some thinking about how to deal with governance challenges associated with fostering collective action, supporting policy, and effective regulation. Further, OFI-I can support a better understanding about diverse values and interests, and prospects for equity in the coastal and marine spaces amid a future that shaped by innovation.

OFI-I Researchers have been involved considerably with equity and justice for the Blue Economy. A key lens for the Blue Economy has been Blue Justice. In the previous WSFC in Thailand 2018, when the Blue Economy was under discussion, one of the founding members of Too Big To Ignore Global Partnership for Small-Scale Fisheries, called on congress attendees to support Blue Justice for small-scale fisheries. Practitioners and scholars from around the world have headed the call, engaging in critical discussions and researchers to re-focus the Blue Economy on Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries in particular with the internationally-endorsed Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication.

One example is the forthcoming Springer volume, Blue Justice: Small-Scale Fisheries in a Sustainable Ocean Economy, edited by Svein Jentoft, Ratana Chuenpagdee, Alicia Bugeja Said, and Moenieba Isaacs. A team of OFI-I researchers contributed to the volume, including Evan J. Andrews, Jack Daly, Mostafa El Halimi and Ratana Chuenpagdee, in a chapter titled, Governance for Blue Justice: Examining Struggles and Contradictions in Atlantic Canada’s Small-Scale Fisheries. Evoking the need to inform governance of the Blue Economy and opportunities for using Blue Justice as a lens for governance, the chapter examines two cases of fisheries struggles that made the headline news in 2020. The first case assessed struggles over corporate ownership of fish processing for Newfoundland and Labrador’s small-scale fisheries. The second case assessed conflict over the Sipekne'katik First Nation’s expression of its treaty right to fish lobster in Nova Scotia. Using interactive governance theory and a rapid assessment of news media and secondary research, the study examined how governing principles and rights were embedded in institutions to shape conflict and issue local calls for justice. Drawing on the cross-case comparison, the research identified how to anticipate conflicts by emphasizing Blue Justice, a multi-dimensional justice lens, through the SSF Guidelines to steer Canada’s Blue Economy.

Given the importance of the SSF Guidelines to advancing Blue Justice and steering the Blue Economy, OFI-I graduate student, Lillian Saul is conducting research to support the implementation of the SSF Guidelines in Newfoundland and Labrador. Through her research, she aims to understand key challenges and opportunities for implementation of the principles with the SSF Guidelines while paying attention to the emerging Canada’s Blue Economy strategy. At the heart of her research is the idea that a Blue Economy needs to support the livelihoods of fishing people and coastal communities. She has begun an exciting field work adventure, traveling around the province to better understand fishers and community leaders’ perspectives related to the SSF Guidelines, specifically about principles that need to be prioritized to support fishing people, their fisheries and their communities. Ultimately, Newfoundland and Labrador’s small-scale fisheries and coastal communities are at the center of a Blue Economy as is their needs and values for a just and equitable ocean. Lillian argues that it is vital that research “understands how a Blue Economy can work for fishing people and not the other way around, and perspectives about the SSF Guidelines are key for that to happen.” If you’re interested in participating in this research, or have questions, email Lillian at As a fisher person herself, Lillian would love to talk to you about what’s going on in inshore fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador and to hear your thought on what can be done to make the sector viable and sustainable in the era of Blue Economy.

The 4WSFC: North America is fast approaching as is the future launch of Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy. OFI-I researchers are hoping to enable great discussion about a Blue Economy, and their engagement and research helps set the stage for informed and bold prospects for Getting the Blue Economy Right. It is not too late to submit an abstract and certainly to let us know your plans to participate ( in discussions about the Blue Economy.


Cisneros-Montemayor, A.M., Moreno-Báez, M., Reygondeau, G. et al. (2021). Enabling conditions for an equitable and sustainable blue economy. Nature, 591, 396-401.

Silver, J., et al. (2015). Blue Economy and competing discourses in international oceans governance. Journal of Environment & Development, 24(2), 135-160.

Wenhai, L., et al. (2019). Successful Blue Economy examples with an emphasis on international perspectives. Frontiers in Marine Science, 6, 261.

World Bank and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (2017). The potential of the Blue Economy: Increasing long-term benefits of the sustainable use of marine resources for small island developing states and coastal least developed countries. World Bank, Washington DC.


Evan J. Andrews is an environmental policy scientist working at the intersections of governance, social change, and transdisciplinarity, largely in the context of inland and coastal fisheries. He holds a postdoctoral research fellowship in the Ocean Frontier Institute and Too Big To Ignore, and is based at Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Canada. He is the co-founder and -lead for SSF-CAN: A Research Network for Small-Scale Fisheries in Canada, and is currently serving an appointment as the Vice President of the Society of Policy Scientists.


Lillian Saul is a researcher at Memorial University studying fisheries governance in Newfoundland and Labrador with a focus on inshore and small-boat fisheries. Her research explores opportunities and challenges to informing policymaking in this province with relevant principles, as outlined by the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries. She is also an active commercial fishing person! Lillian would be satisfied spending the rest of her days fishing on the water and contributing to learning about and solving complex problems in fisheries on shore. Ultimately, she hopes her work can celebrate the invaluable knowledge and vitality of fishing communities in Atlantic Canada and beyond.

bottom of page