ArticlePDF Available


While the global rush to control land resources is well established, ‘power-grabs’ in relation to marine and coastal resources are less well researched. Under the banner of ‘blue growth’, such power-grabs are taking shape through global policy processes that purportedly align the needs of the poor with profit interests and climate change concerns. This contribution critically interrogates these policy proposals and situates them within broader neoliberalization of nature debates. It is argued that the policy proposals fail on their own terms and are a form of ‘antipolitics’ that precludes more radical visions of addressing environmental and climate change issues. In an attempt to challenge this, small-scale fishers’ movements are increasingly framing their opposition in terms of the broader struggle for ‘food sovereignty’.
Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
The Journal of Peasant Studies
ISSN: 0306-6150 (Print) 1743-9361 (Online) Journal homepage:
Blue growth: savior or ocean grabbing?
Mads Barbesgaard
To cite this article: Mads Barbesgaard (2018) Blue growth: savior or ocean grabbing?, The
Journal of Peasant Studies, 45:1, 130-149, DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2017.1377186
To link to this article:
Published online: 30 Oct 2017.
Submit your article to this journal
Article views: 535
View related articles
View Crossmark data
Blue growth: savior or ocean grabbing?
Mads Barbesgaard
While the global rush to control land resources is well established, power-grabsin
relation to marine and coastal resources are less well researched. Under the banner of
blue growth, such power-grabs are taking shape through global policy processes
that purportedly align the needs of the poor with prot interests and climate change
concerns. This contribution critically interrogates these policy proposals and situates
them within broader neoliberalization of nature debates. It is argued that the policy
proposals fail on their own terms and are a form of antipoliticsthat precludes more
radical visions of addressing environmental and climate change issues. In an attempt
to challenge this, small-scale shersmovements are increasingly framing their
opposition in terms of the broader struggle for food sovereignty.
Keywords: blue growth; ocean grabbing; natural capital; food sovereignty; anti-politics
Talk of the ocean as a new economic frontier, of a new phase of industrialization of the seas,
will become widespread in 2016.
The Economist,2015
The Economists prediction from 2015 has come true. More and more actors have become
interested in fundamental questions of how to manage ocean resources: who should control
the resources, who should have access, on which terms and to what end? What role should
maritime and coastal resources have in our society? Increasingly, these questions are dis-
cussed under the banner of blue growthand the debate is driven by international environ-
mental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs), like World Wide Fund for Nature
(WWF) and Conservation International, the nancial sector including Credit Suisse and
Goldman Sachs, and even military companies like Lockheed Martin. The year 2015 saw
a stream of international conferences on how to Invest in the Blue Economyand how
best to attain blue growth, in which these actors gured prominently. Rather than
seeing opposing interests and contradictory dynamics between the search for growth and
economic prot on the one hand and conservation and restoration of ocean resources in
order to tackle and mitigate climate change on the other hand, blue growth envisions
triple-benetsolutions, where everybody supposedly wins: coastal communities, the
environment and investors. Commenting on the outcome of a conference organized by
Credit Suisse and WWF on Conservation Financewith a focus on maritime and coastal
resources, managing director at Encourage Capital Jason Scott remarked optimistically
how the policy solutions discussed would lead to More sh, more income for shers
and more return for investors(quoted in Washington Post 2016).
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
The Journal of Peasant Studies, 2018
Vol. 45, No. 1, 130149,
As the broad range of actors suggests, blue growthgoes beyond the question of sh-
eries and extends to dynamics about the management of all maritime and coastal resources.
A report put out by The Economist Intelligence Unit (2015), in the run-up to the World
Ocean Summit in June 2015, identied a wide array of emerging industries’–from phar-
maceuticals to eco-tourism to deep-sea mining with potential interests in the ocean
Similar to the ongoing global land rush, driven by a convergence of crises (nance,
food, climate, energy) and consequent increased interest in control of land and land-
based resources (McMichael 2012), movements of small-scale sher peoples claim that a
global ocean grabis also underway (WFFP 2014a). In this view, states, multinational cor-
porations, ENGOs, speculative investors and many others are pushing through a power
grabto gain control of aquatic –‘blue’–resources. Seen in this light, the rise of blue
growth represents the latest stage in a broader process of capturing of control by powerful
economic actors of crucial decision-making including the power to decide how and for
what purposes marine resources are used, conserved and managed(WFFP 2014a, 3).
Just as the global land rushis discursively legitimized with reference to everything
from feeding the world to solving climate change and ensuring development all the
while casting the current users of the land, small-scale peasants, as ineffective and/or detri-
mental to these purported goals (Borras et al. 2016)so too the global ocean grab is codi-
ed in terms of saving the remaining aquatic species (reform of national sheries policy and
top-down conservation measures), mitigating climate change (so-called blue-carbon initiat-
ives) and feeding the world (through aquaculture and/or sustainablelarge-scale sheries)
(WFFP 2014a; see also Bennett, Govan, and Sattereld 2015).
While the literature on drivers behind such dynamics as well as their consequences and
the struggles and conicts that they have unleashed surrounding land-based resources is
extensive (e.g. Fairhead, Leach, and Scoones 2012; Borras and Franco 2012), relatively
little attention from this perspective has been given to similar processes around blue
resources. Although there is a robust, but small(Campling, Havice, and McCall
Howard 2012, 173) body of critical literature surrounding the political economy of sh-
eries, this focuses on the more historical intra-sectoral dynamics and management of the
sheries resource (Bresnihan 2016; Campling and Havice 2014; Manseld 2004;
Macinko 2014). Additionally, a body of research looking into one of the emerging indus-
triesin the blue economy, marine aquaculture, has also been developing over the past
decade (see Vandergeest, Flaherty, and Miller 1999; Hall 2003 for early work by political
ecologists, and Clausen and Clark 2005; Longo, Clausen, and Clark 2015 for interventions
drawing on Marxist political economy). And, nally, work on climate change mitigation
and conservation initiatives aimed at blue resources, and their consequences for coastal
communities, is also increasing (Beymer-Farris and Bassett 2012; Benjaminsen and Bryce-
son 2012; Wolff 2015).
This paper seeks to contribute to the literature by examining and giving an overview of
blue growth solutions to conservation and climate change issues. The contribution feeds
into ongoing theoretical debates around the neoliberalization of nature with a case that chal-
lenges straightforward accounts of such processes. While blue growth solutions to conser-
vation and climate change issues aim at selling nature to save it(McAfee 1999), I argue
that they fail on their own terms through lacking appeal to the right(so-called sustainable)
capital and by consolidating or simply ignoring the large-scale extractivist activities that are
driving the crises in ocean health. In tune with recent research on for-prot conservation
generally (Dempsey 2016; Dempsey and Suarez 2016), blue growth solutions furthermore
have profound impact through their antipoliticalframing of climate and environmental
The Journal of Peasant Studies 131
change that precludes radical agendas forwarded by sher peoplesmovements. As blue
growth rhetoric gains momentum in global political arenas and associated policies are
implemented across the globe, critical analyses of their impacts on the people that currently
rely on blue resources are crucial.
First, I track the rise of blue growth, discussing the contested meanings of the term and
how a specic interpretation of it is gaining traction in key international policy circles. Next
I look into the historical enclosure of blue resources, drawing on the neoliberal conservation
and political economy of sheries literature. This sets the stage for the following sections
that examine two policy proposals owing from the blue growth vision of restoring ocean
health: the rst on sustainable sheriesand the next on blue carbon. I then show how
despite the inordinate returnspromised for investors engaged in nancing the restoration
of ocean health, accumulation is currently not taking place directly through these means.
The nal section discusses the antipoliticalframing of climate change and conservation
that the blue growth discourse leads to and how small-scale sher peoplesmovements
are increasingly opposing blue growth policies, putting forward their own solutions. The
analytical sections are based on a study of relevant policy documents and a selected litera-
ture review. The discussion on the small-scale shers peoplesmovements convergence
with food sovereignty efforts is based on my participation in events leading up to and at
the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention
on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Blue growth restoring ocean health?
Without a dramatic shift in the business-as-usual course for marine management, our analysis
suggests that the oceans will endure a mass extinction of sufcient intensity and ecological
selectivity to rank among the major extinctions of the Phanerozoic (541 Ma to present).
(Payne et al. 2016,3)
So reads the conclusion in the latest of a long stream of articles in journals like Science and
Nature on the increasingly abysmal state of blue resources. Media and non-governmental
organization (NGO) reports have similarly covered the declining biodiversity and destruc-
tion of marine and coastal ecosystems to the detriment of life on earth as we know it
(Hoegh-Guldberg et al. 2015, 5), as WWF put it. Global policy processes drawing on
this crisis narrative are accordingly, in their own words, approaching ocean healthfrom
a more holistic perspective in the pursuit of winwinwin solutions. As a recent World
Bank initiative explains: fragmented solutions [are] insufcient to meet the web of chal-
lenges confronting ocean health. Properly designed, integrated efforts can result in sustain-
able and shared economic development, poverty reduction, and healthy marine ecosystems
(Hoegh-Guldberg et al. 2013, 12). Such integrated efforts are increasingly happening under
the banner of blue growth(interchangeably, blue economy/wealth and ocean economy).
The rst international event where blue growth received mass attention was the Rio +
20 summit, where proponents competed with the fanfare surrounding green growth.
Employing discourse analysis, Silver et al. (2015) examine the competing and contrasting
invocation of the term blue economyat the meeting in Rio. They identied four different
narratives: oceans as natural capital, oceans as good business, oceans as integral to small-
island developing states (SIDS), and oceans as small-scale sherslivelihoods. Each of
these narratives has its own specic set of problems, solutions and governance actors.
For the natural capitalnarrative, the problem is that decision-making does not adequately
account for nature and the value of ecosystem services. Consequently, the solution lies in
identifying and valuing ecosystem services and developing mechanisms to account and
132 Mads Barbesgaard
protect/restore them. The main actors here are international organizations, governments,
ENGOs, impact investors, scientists and other experts. For the good businessnarrative,
the problem is that actions by rms have in the past been unsustainable and that states are
incapable of governing alone. Consequently, the solution is publicprivate partnerships and
better incentivizing of rms that will lead to private-sector leadership. The main actors here
are, predictably, individual rms, industry coalitions and international partnerships. For the
last two, SIDS and small-scale sherslivelihoods, there is a common focus on inequities in
the international political-economic system and the marginalization of small-scale sher
peoples and development opportunities as the main problems. Solutions include a human
rights approach to sheries and the implementation of international agreements with gov-
ernments, supportive donors and NGOs as well as, crucially, shers and sher collectives
themselves as the main actors.
The different actors at Rio + 20, from small-scale sherfolk to transnational ENGOs and
nancial actors, had widely different ideas about which types of policy proposals would be
conducive to the blue economy, which problems they were addressing and who should be in
the drivers seat of such policy proposals. As Silver and colleagues conclude (2015, 152)
this competition in analyses and diagnosis of the crises in ocean health has material conse-
quences, as ideas presented and relationships made can serve to codify ways to think about
and in turn govern nature and society. Following Rio + 20, a range of initiatives
oriented toward facilitating blue growth at global and national levels have been introduced,
including the World Banks USD 6.4 billion Blue Growth Portfolio (World Bank 2016), the
EUs Blue Growth Strategy (EC 2014), and a wide range of countries in the Global South
that, according to the United Nations (UN)s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO),
are already implementing Blue Growth programs (FAO 2015a). Furthermore, it has set
the frame for a range of international conferences and meetings, including the stream of
World Ocean Summits organized by The Economist, the #OurOcean conferences organized
by the USA State Department, and UN processes including the UNFCCC and the FAOs
Committee on Fisheries. At COP22 of the UNFCCC held in Morocco, several of the
keynote speakers at the Oceans Day (a regular feature since COP15 in Copenhagen)
stressed blue growths transformative potential by addressing climate change while simul-
taneously delivering sustainable growth (IISD 2016a).
A year after the Rio +20, the FAO launched its Blue Growth Initiative (BGI) in 2013,
dening blue growth as: the sustainable growth and development emanating from econ-
omic activities in the oceans, wetlands and coastal zones, that minimize environmental
degradation, biodiversity loss and unsustainable use of living aquatic resources, and maxi-
mize economic and social benets(FAO 2015a, 8). A range of challenges and crises are
identied as the reasoning behind the BGI, including the degradation and destruction of
habitats, loss of biodiversity, overexploited sh stocks and general climate change-
related impacts on marine and coastal ecosystems (e.g. ocean acidication and warming).
In order to respond to these crises, it is deemed necessary to increase international coordi-
nation aimed at strengthen[ing] responsible management regimes and practices that recon-
cile economic growth and food security with the restoration of the eco-systems they sustain
(FAO 2015a, 8). The FAOs approach to blue economy is interesting in that it selectively
borrows from the different narratives above. In its denition, it aims at addressing all of the
As an anonymous reviewer pointed out, though, it is important to acknowledge that the SIDS rhetoric
here around livelihoods etc. is often far from reality, where it is often more aligned with the interests of
transnational corporations.
The Journal of Peasant Studies 133
problems identied across the four narratives. In terms of actors, the BGI is based on a
partnership-approach, bringing together a range of actors, including: UN agencies (UN
Environment Program (UNEP), UN Development Program (UNDP) and FAO), multilateral
and national donors (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, The World Bank
and the Global Environmental Facility), industry coalitions (e.g. the International Coalition
of Fishing Associations, the Marine Stewardship Council) and transnational ENGOs (e.g.
WWF) Communications around the BGI stress that the initiative focuses on creating strong
and meaningful partnerships, so that no one group will take the lead”’ (Mathiesen 2015)
and suggests that civil society actors are also key partnersto the BGI (Bodiguel n.d.).
However, the two global sher movements, the World Forum of Fisher Peoples and the
World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers, have in other instances voiced
strong critique against the terms of their inclusion in such partnership-processes (WFFP
&WFF2017). Additionally, a few years down the line from the launch of the BGI, the
FAO and a subset of the BGI partners are currently pushing policy agendas related to con-
servation and climate change mitigation that are much closer to the oceans as good
businessand oceans as natural capitalnarratives than to the other two narratives con-
cerned with livelihoods and development of SIDS.
The tragedy of the commonsand the blue enclosure
In recent years, a growing body of literature has sought to uncover the social and ecological
outcomes of conservation and climate change mitigation policy under neoliberalism.
Initially seen through the prism of neoliberalization of nature (Heynen et al. 2007;
Castree 2008), more recently the concepts of green-grabbing(Fairhead, Leach, and
Scoones 2012) and its inversion, grabbing green(Corson, MacDonald, and Neimark
2013), have gained traction. These draw on rich historical debates centering on shifts in
control of natural resources dating back to Marxs elucidation of the necessary prerequisite
to capitalism: primitive accumulation. Advancing Harveys(2003) argument that primitive
accumulation is an ongoing process as new rounds of enclosures privatize global commons
and public assets, the green-grabbing literature argues that climate change and conservation
initiatives have become a key tool to facilitate what Harvey calls accumulation by dispos-
As background to the contemporary interventions that will be addressed later, the
following section provides a brief overview of the historical enclosures of blue resources.
With the dawn of early capitalism from the seventeenth century onward, pressure to
dene ocean-use rights, territory and ownership were deeply entangled with the develop-
ment of emerging production practices, trade patterns, shipping lanes and geopolitics in
the world market(Campling and Havice 2014, 714). For centuries, a wide range of inter-
ested parties, not least states, have been deeply engaged in dening and delimiting property
rights over maritime and coastal resources under the competitive dynamics of capitalism.
In the past couple of decades, policy debates around the sheries resource specically
have shaped the evolution of approaches to ocean governance more broadly (Manseld
2004). Academic and policy discussions on sheries have for decades been dominated
by a view that reduces environmental and economic crises in sh stocks to rst and fore-
most a result of too many boats chasing too few sh’–a common quip in sheries
The debates on the appropriateness of primitive accumulation vs. accumulation by dispossession are
ongoing. A range of authors working on neoliberal conservation retain Marxs concept of primitive
accumulation (e.g. Buscher 2009; Kelly 2011).
134 Mads Barbesgaard
policy debates. In fact, the analysis of sheries systems and their decline are foundational
to neo-Malthusian arguments that human population pressures yield the tragedy of the
commons”’ (Campling, Havice, and McCall Howard 2012, 181). Predating Hardin
(1968) by 14 years, the economist Gordon put out a seminal paper in 1954. Gordon
placed the commonsand rent at the heart of the discussion on ecological and economic
crisis in sheries. He argued that, most of the problems associated with the words conser-
vationor depletionor overexploitationin the shery are, in reality, manifestations of
the fact that the natural resources of the sea yield no economic rent(Gordon 1954, 124) as a
result of non-existent property rights over these resources. In line with neoclassical econ-
omics, he reasoned that a lack of property rights and the consequent open accessto the
oceans resources would inevitably lead to overcapitalization, as the individual sher con-
tinues to invest in order to maximize prots from the open accesscommons. This would,
in turn, inevitably lead to overshing, as the rational sher would catch as many sh today
as possible, leading to the notion of the race for sh. These ideas were picked up and
advanced further by sheries economists in subsequent publications (e.g. Neher,
Arnason, and Mollet 1989, 3) that overtly called for the enclosure and privatization of
the common resources of the ocean, stressing the crucial role played by property rights
in society. As inuential sheries economist Ragnar Àrnasson
(2000, 17) put it,
without property rights, human society seems doomed to abject poverty. In fact, with little or no
property rights, human society would be primitive indeed, not much different from the more
advanced versions of animal societies It follows immediately that the sheries problem
would disappear if only the appropriate property rights could be dened, imposed and enforced.
This hardcoreneoclassical reasoning on lack of property rights in sheries systems con-
tinues to this day (Bromley 2016). Indeed, Macinko (2014, 40) argues that sheries econ-
omists are approaching a state of evangelismleading to what he calls a privatize-or-perish
In this context, scholars drawing on the agrarian political economy tradition
have inter-
vened, putting analyses of capture sheries in the broader context of the capitalist relations
of production through which most now operate(Campling, Havice, and McCall Howard
2012, 178). Through these historical and contextual analyses, alternative explanations of
the causes of contemporary socio-ecological crises in sheries systems have been
advanced, centering on capitalist production methods and the underlying accumulation
imperative as drivers (e.g. Longo, Clausen, and Clark 2015). Crucially, this body of litera-
ture has helped uncover the broader political economic dynamics surrounding access to and
control of sheries resources. Through an historical analysis of property rights in sheries
Campling and Havice (2014, 714) show how marine sheries have been moving towards
the enclosure of open access regimes for hundreds of years. Most notably through the
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), all seabed and marine
resources within 200 nautical miles of coasts, so-called exclusive economic zones
(EEZs), became state property.
As they go on to show, rather than the current tragedy
Àrnasson has published extensively and has worked as an advisor to the FAO and the World Bank on
sheries for decades.
Supplementing earlier common property theorists (e.g. Ostrom 1990; Bromley 1992).
And, most recently, negotiations of adding a legally binding instrument under UNCLOS concerning
Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine and Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jur-
isdictionhave been initiated (IISD 2016b).
The Journal of Peasant Studies 135
being reducible to bad behavior on the part of individual shermen in the context of non-
existent property rights, states and rms mutually created the tragedydriven by the com-
petitive dynamics of capital accumulation(Campling and Havice 2014, 713).
Beyond the sheries resources specically, the enclosure set off through the UNCLOS
regime also legitimized state autonomy over near-shore marine space. Aside from formaliz-
ing the EEZ, UNCLOS provided formal guidelines for the measurement and governance of
near-shore ocean space too, expanding the coastal zone, which had until then usually been
dened loosely as a three-nautical-mile strip (Nichols 1999). This meant that 12 nautical
miles from a xed point on the coast became sovereign territorial space, i.e. now, if it
was not already so, formally under the planning purview of the state.
This dovetailed burgeoning debates in the 1980s and 1990s around the need for inte-
grated coastal management(ICM) in order to counter pollution, loss of wildlife habitat,
sea level rise, and increasing pressure on coastal resources(Nichols 1999, 389). All of
these were framed as problems of mal-development to be solved through management
that integrated conservation and economic growth. Building on the idea of sustainable
development, this was afrmed most clearly in the Agenda 21 as put forth at the UNs
1993 Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). With a specic chapter
on Oceans, All Kinds of Seas, and Coastal Areas and the Protection, Rational Use and
Development of their Living Resources, this set the frame for consequent ICM interven-
tions (Vallega 1999). Following the same line of reasoning as the neoclassical economists
analysis of the sheries system, the inappropriate development in coastal areas was a result
of insufciencies in state regulation, namely policies that encourage haphazard develop-
ment, stie investment, and thwart private ownership of coastal resources necessary to
deect a tragedy of the commons scenario(Nichols 1999, 392).
As later work on green-grabbing has shown, despite the neoclassical economists
assumptions of privatization facilitating smooth market exchanges that by necessity
benet both buyers and sellers with no costs to society (McAfee 2012), such processes
involve massive shifts in and struggles over social relations, socio-economic (in)equality
and power more broadly (Fairhead, Leach, and Scoones 2012). Nonetheless, with the
rise and consolidation of market-based mechanisms in conservation and climate change
mitigation, nature is being further parceled into tradable commodities and newnature is
actively produced, e.g. through emissions trading schemes (Igoe and Brockington 2007;
Brockington and Duffy 2010; Buscher and Fletcher 2015). A prerequisite to this is that
our whole understanding of nature is changed: ontologies of ecology are being replaced
by those of natural capitaland ecosystem services”’ (Fairhead, Leach, and Scoones
2012, 244). Additionally, the casting of states as incapable of solving global issues has
in turn justied the increased participation of non-state actors. This has resulted in actors
that are much more embedded in capitalist networks(Fairhead, Leach, and Scoones
2012, 239) having a rm place in global policy processes concerning global climate and
environmental change.
Although acknowledging differences in terms of ecological characteristics and social
dynamics, Benjaminsen and Bryceson (2012, 350) analyze blue grabbinginvoking paral-
lels to green grabbing:
political economic forces and processes, characterized by power constellations, and in terms of
contradictions between the rights and interests of people to land, sea and natural resources vis-
à-vis foreign investors and state agencies vying to capture control over land and natural
resources, are all strikingly similar.
136 Mads Barbesgaard
Today, with many different actors doubling up their interests in the geographical spaces and
resources that underpin blue growth, purportedly in the pursuit of winwinwin solutions,
all of these processes have become highly relevant. New policy proposals that follow up on
the historical enclosure are emerging as part of this, and the following sections examine two
of these relating to sustainable sheriesand blue carbon.
Incentivizing sustainable sheries?
We need to create economic incentives for people not to oversh There is great potential for
conservation nance activities that generate both a nancial and an ecological return and help
us avoid the so-called tragedy of the commons.
John Tobin, Global Head of Sustainability, Credit Suisse, speaking on The Future of the Blue
We cannot secure our oceans future without the active involvement of the private sector.
Investment in coastal sheries is both environmental necessity and a largely untapped econ-
omic opportunity.
Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson,
Speaking at #OurOceans conference (GEF 2016)
As these two quotes suggest, the solutions promoted by sheries economists continue to
dominate in policy circles aimed at ensuring sustainable sheries(Macinko 2014).
Policy proposals following this brand of sheries economistsreasoning started to be
implemented already in the late 1970s, where so-called individual transferable quotas
(ITQs) were introduced rst in Iceland and New Zealand. ITQ-systems involve privatizing
the right to catch a certain amount of a national sh stock (a quota) and creating a market to
govern the distribution of these quotas (making them transferable). ITQ-programs were
later introduced in a range of other countries particularly in the Global North.
With the
rise of climate change and conservation strategies that adopt the logic of neoliberalism, par-
alleling the rise of the blue economy, there has, however, been a new push for ITQs or
associated policieswidespread implementation across the Global South. Explicitly situated
within the context of the FAOs Blue Growth Initiative, the Coastal Fisheries Initiative
(CFI) is one such example.
The CFI aims at reforming sheries in six countries across three continents: Cape
Verde, Cote DIvoire, Ecuador, Indonesia, Perú and Senegal. Over a period of four
years, USD 235 million will be invested through a number of projects in these countries.
The program is run by a coalition of actors: the FAO, UNEP, UNDP, Conservation Inter-
national, WWF and the World Bank. It is funded jointly by the Global Environmental Facil-
ity (GEF), the governments of the countries involved, ENGOs, and a number of foundations
and private-sector actors. Implementation is divided amongst the lead actors, with WWF
implementing in Indonesia; UNDP, WWF and Conservation International implementing
in Ecuador and Peru; and FAO and UNEP implementing in Cape Verde, Cote DIvoire
and Senegal. Country programs are at the time of writing at various stages of development
Interview on the Credit Suisse company website following the World Ocean Summit in June 2015
(Staufer 2015).
Though also a few in the Global South; see Longo, Clausen, and Clark (2015) for an overview.
The CFI follows a stream of other, now defunct, international coalitions and partnerships of similar
actors that had to close down due to lack of funding, including the World Banks Global Partnership
for Oceans (GPO) and the 50-in-10 initiative. Both of these had largely the same content and approach
as the CFI. See WFFP and WFF (2013) for reactions from sher peoplesmovements to the GPO.
The Journal of Peasant Studies 137
and implementation, but the framework document (FAO 2015b) clearly sets the overall
frame and indicates how the restoration of ocean health is conceived.
The root causesof current environmental and economic crises in sheries, as ident-
ied in the framework document, reect Gordonian logic. In tune with Gordons reasoning
in 1954, the document explains: coastal sheries
are often characterized by perverse
incentives that encourage overshing and overinvestment(FAO 2015b) and, to be clear,
these perverse incentives are a result of absent, unclear or insecure tenure rights especially
in the EEZs of developing countries. In the case of Indonesia, this is supplemented by neo-
Malthusian argumentation that the fundamental root cause of what is called unsustainable
sheries is rapid population growth(FAO 2015b). Consequently, having placed the root
causes within the tragedy of the commonsframe, the solution forwarded by the CFI is to
put in place new or amended sheries management, institutions and legal frameworks that
create the appropriate incentives by introducing secure tenure and access rights. In this way
and only this way –‘a more responsible behavior is expected and the incentives behind
the race for share dismantled(FAO 2015b).
Furthermore, secure tenure rights are a vital step in terms of catalyzing private sector
involvement(FAO 2015b). And, in order to ensure this involvement, a key component of
the CFI is a Challenge Fundled by the World Bank and Conservation International. The
fund will act as grant mechanism that supports market-based solutions that help leverage
improved sheries management(FAO 2015b) and involves the CFI countries and regions,
creating an enabling governance context for investment(FAO 2015b). An annex to the
framework document further explains how attracting investments is key, if sustainability
is to be reached: If sheries can be sustainably managed, the potential returns are substan-
tial Key to achieving this sustainability is creating market incentives to invest in the tran-
sition to sustainability and to attract private-sector investment in sheries(FAO 2015c, 3).
Finally, throughout the program document it is stressed that it will deliver on environ-
mental, social and economic goals. It continually mentions the need to be sensitive to differ-
ent objectives from an equitable distribution of the benets from sheriesto ensuring
wealth creation and investment(FAO 2015b, 13). The underlying assumption is that the
program can safeguard the interests of everyone involved in sheries from small-scale
sherfolk to the private-sector actors and impact investors granted a central role by the CFI.
What is to be expected of such policy proposals in terms of the stated aims of the FAOs
Blue Growth Initiative? The CFI document does not explicitly propose ITQs as the pre-
ferred management tool, but mentions a range of different possible property systems
from private to community. However, the Gordonian reasoning that stresses the catalytic
role of property rights in leveraging self-interests and creating incentives to ensure sustain-
able sheries, inevitably leads to the conclusion that the ideal form of property is private
property and, in sheries, ITQ systems.
Árnason (2000) praises the ITQ systems developed in Iceland and New Zealand as
being the closest to the perfect property right. His appraisal is based on four key charac-
teristics, namely transferability (ensuring economic efciency), durability (facilitating long-
term planning), exclusivity (ensuring only a limited number of users) and security (property
rights are protected by the state). These four elements are the ones considered necessary to
counteract the perverse incentivesalso mentioned in the CFI document. This approach is
in tune with neoclassical assumptions of how the creation of private property rights and a
market to distribute them through conict-free transactions will ensure optimal economic
As pointed out in the document, coastalin this instance refers to all sheries within the EEZ.
138 Mads Barbesgaard
and environmental outcomes. However, actual experiences on the ground as documented
by geographers (e.g. Manseld 2004; Benediktsson and Karlsdóttir 2011), ethnologists
(e.g. Høst 2013) and sociologists (e.g. Longo, Clausen, and Clark 2015) with these types
of commodication and marketization schemes suggest a much more conict-ridden
process, with adverse social outcomes and at best doubtful environmental outcomes.
In terms of environmental outcomes, drawing on reviews of experiences in 18 countries
(mainly in the Global North) Longo and colleagues argue that the outcomes have been
mixed, with continuing decline in some cases, but not in others. Nonetheless, they go on
to conclude, [w]hile in the short run ITQs may avert ecological collapse The long-
term ecological conditions are yet to be evaluated(Longo, Clausen, and Clark 2015,
61). This point is especially prescient because what their review consistently shows is
how ITQ systems unleash social tragediesthrough rampant consolidation in the sector
that prioritizes large-scale, capital-intensive systems aimed at global commodity production
(coinciding with earlier reviews, e.g. Olson 2011). They have had huge social implications
across coastal communities from Denmark (Høst 2013) to South Africa (Isaacs 2011)as
small-scale actors, local knowledge and traditional shing systems have lost out. Addition-
ally, in both Iceland and Denmark the privatization and commodication process also trig-
gered massive nancial speculation in the sector, with some analysts arguing that
speculation in the sheries sector played a key role in Icelands later nancial crisis (Ben-
ediktsson and Karlsdóttir 2011).
As Longo et al. conclude (2015, 61), [t]hese types of production systems that focus
narrowly and intensely on economic gain and capital accumulation seek growth of
capital rst and foremost, and tend to subordinate ecological and social costs. Furthermore,
where the social implications of such consolidation processes have had profound impacts
on coastal communities in the North, the consequences of spreading such reforms in
countries in the Global South, with much larger portions of their populations relying on
small-scale sheries for their lives and livelihoods, are severely concerning.
In this light, the claim in a recent report by two US universities and a US-based NGO
that these types of sheries reform will ensure that sustainable sheries become a driving
force of the blue economyas they will revers[e] overshing, revive[e] coastal commu-
nities, and bring oceans back to lifeis puzzling (EDF, UCSB, and University of Washing-
ton 2015, 5). Such statements lend credence to economic and legal anthropologist Melanie
Wibers scolding of sheries economists (quoted in Longo, Clausen, and Clark 2015, 60),
There is nothing intrinsic in private property rights that will automatically create the outcomes
that many economists claim for the property regime. Only by ignoring history, anthropological
evidence and even juridical dogma can economists claim, for the property system, the global
panaceas that they do.
Where these policies aim at incentivizing more efcient and sustainable use of blue
resources in production, other blue growth solutions aim at taking marine and coastal
resources out of production. The next sections turn to these.
Blue carbon
Investing in nature can give us winwinwin situations. We must invest in nature to protect and
restore our mangroves, our coral reefs, our wetlands, our seagrasses our natural capital.
Maria Damanaki, Global Managing Director for Oceans,
The Nature Conservancy, speaking at Oceans Day at COP21
The Journal of Peasant Studies 139
Conservation initiatives aimed at blue resources have historically involved the creation of
marine protected areas (MPAs) evolving out of the abovementioned integrated coastal-
management framework. Through MPAs vast areas of the seascape are deemed completely
or partly off-limits for shing activities, in the name of conservation (Benjaminsen and Bry-
ceson 2012). Wolff (2015, 16) recently characterized the creation of protected areas, which
are hugely controversial with the small-scale shers who are often the ones dispossessed, as
aprotectionist, authoritarian and violently repressive practice of conservation. Through
blue carbon, different versions of protected areas in coastal ecosystems are now being
tied to attaining climate change mitigation.
Blue carbon refers to CO
stored in coastal ecosystems, notably, mangroves, tidal
marshes and seagrass meadows. The concept was rst introduced by the FAO, UNEP
and others in a 2009 report titled Blue Carbon: the role of healthy oceans in binding
carbon (Nelleman et al. 2009). Since then, it has been drawn into the blue economy dis-
course (Silver et al. 2015) and as the above quote suggests was actively pushed at
COP21 of the UNFCCC process, and most recently at COP22 in Morocco (IISD 2016a).
In line with the ecosystem services framework approach to naturesociety relations, the
report (and a number of follow-up reports, e.g. Herr et al. 2012) stresses how coastal eco-
systems through their ability to capture and store carbon provide a major servicein the
ght against climate change as they sequester carbon more quickly than terrestrial ecosys-
tems do (Campbell et al. 2016). This service, the report argues, makes coastal ecosystems a
key tool to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions. While similar mitigating abilities of
rainforests and other land-based resources have been recognized for some time, this is still
not the case for coastal ecosystems. Consequently, proponents argue for protecting and
revitalizing these coastal ecosystems by documenting their ability to absorb and store
carbon, and the need to value this service appropriately and to create mechanisms to
allow for payments and trade in these services drawing theoretical inspiration from terres-
trial variants of payments for ecosystem services (PES) schemes and reducing emissions
from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) mechanisms (Gordon et al. 2011).
However, blue carbon projects do not necessarily involve offset markets they can also
take the form of payment through tourist-fees etc. In any case, proponents stress that
blue carbon projects should involve winwinwinmitigation strategies where the invest-
ment to protect the area also promotes business, jobs and coastal development opportu-
nities(Nelleman et al. 2009, 69). At its core, then, blue carbon follows the logic of
market-based environmentalism and aims at expanding existing mechanisms of PES and
carbon trading to include marine and coastal ecosystems.
As blue carbon proponents lament, however, this sink’‘has not yet been recognized in
the global protocols and carbon trading schemes(Nelleman et al. 2009, 7). This remains
the case, and consequently a myriad of studies that document it as a sinkand attempt
to put a price on that service are being produced. This push for valuation follows the reason-
ing behind market-based environmentalism of environmental degradation and climate crisis
resulting from a market failure (McAfee 2012). The only way forward, then, is a deepening
of market relations, facilitated through new and ever more numerous modes of valuation
and mechanisms that ensure that the identied values of the ecosystem services are com-
mensurable. All this, in order to bring about smooth market exchanges and hence economi-
cally efcient means of mitigating climate change and conserving biological diversity
without curtailing economic growth(McAfee 2016, 334). Furthermore, in an attempt to
draw in new funding opportunities for these types of conservation and restoration projects,
new mechanisms established explicitly to accommodate the logic of nance capital are
being created. As WWF remarks on ongoing work to establish such mechanisms, they
140 Mads Barbesgaard
have the potential to generate prots exceeding the original investment(Hoegh-Guldberg
2015, 44). And as emphasized already in the 2009 report on blue carbon (Nelleman et al.
2009): Targeted investments in the sustainable management of coastal and marine ecosys-
tems the natural infrastructure alongside the rehabilitation and restoration of damaged
and degraded ones, could prove a very wise transaction with inordinate returns.
Platforms and alliances pushing this valuation, and blue carbon as a policy solution
more generally, include the International Partnership for Blue Carbon, launched at the
recent COP21; the Blue Carbon Initiative; the Ocean and Climate Platform; and the Eye
on Oceans and Blue Carbon Special Initiative. All of these consist of varying constellations
of states, ENGOs, international institutions and consultancy rms.
So, what does this solution to coastal and marine ecosystem destruction look like, when
implemented on the ground? Thomas (2014) identies 29 ongoing projects, involving
information-gathering activities (9), PES projects (5) and projects on mitigation or restor-
ation through carbon offset credits (15). Only four of these are expectedto generate nan-
cial return, but none of them is currently doing so. In a more recent global study, Wylie,
Sutton-Grier, and Moore (2016) give an overview of four blue carbon projects based largely
on the implementing organizationsown descriptions. Only two of these projects, in Kenya
and India, have been implemented. All of the projects identied by Thomas (2014,2016)
and Wylie, Sutton-Grier, and Moore (2016) are situated in the Global South and all of them
are small-scale afforestation/reforestation projects targeting mangroves.
As Thomas remarks in his review of 46 articles on blue carbon, there is an almost com-
plete lack of research looking into existing or possible social aspects of blue carbon pro-
jects. Notwithstanding the relatively few projects on the ground, in light of how blue
carbon projects overtly draw on PES and REDD+ experiences and thereby potentially
involve some form of the appropriation dynamics referenced above, this lack of critical
research is problematic. As noted by Campbell et al. (2016, 533), [m]any Blue Carbon
strategies [involve] subsuming coastal ecosystems into the sphere of capital, a difcult
and potentially detrimental process for local environments and peoples. Thomas (2016)
explains how, in a case study in Malaysia, project implementation impacted on, and was
impacted by, issues such as existing land tenure systems, religion, race and gender
dynamics. Beymer-Farris and Bassetts(2012) have done work on a REDD+ project in
Tanzania on mangrove forests. In addition to identifying rampant appropriation dynamics,
they show how the entire environmental narrative that legitimated the intervention refer-
encing environmental destruction and change arising from current users invadingand
destroyingotherwise pristine mangrove areas had no basis in the environmental
history of the area. Instead, the PES implementers, in this case WWF, had an ahistorical
approach with little understanding of complex socio-natural relations. While this will
vary across contexts, the narratives in at least some of the existing blue carbon projects
(as described by Wylie, Sutton-Grier, and Moore 2016) similarly frame current users as
being unaware of how nature should ideally be treated.
Questioning the ecological credentials of PES projects, McAfee (2012) points out how
they are based on paying resource-users to forgo prot from activities that are deemed eco-
logically destructive. Investment decisions in such PES projects will be based on economic
efciency and opportunity-cost logic, where the idea is to get as much conservation for as
little money as possible. As a result, they will by necessity fail to target the large-scale
drivers of environmental destruction, as the buying outof these actors (e.g. transnational
logging companies) would be too expensive (McAfee 2012). This logic is conrmed in a
recent report by a range of ENGOs on how to support blue carbon projects through nancial
mechanisms (Herr et al. 2015), where they stress that considerations around opportunity
The Journal of Peasant Studies 141
costs will dominate and be decisive in terms of which types of projects can be initiated,
automatically directing investments toward projects that can be achieved at the lowest
costs. As the drivers of coastal ecosystem destruction identied by the BCI include aqua-
culture, agriculture, mangrove forest exploitation, terrestrial and marine sources of pol-
lution and industrial and urban coastal development
(i.e. several of the other sectors in
the blue economy), the question is how efcientcan these projects be in countering
destruction of coastal ecosystems, if they fail to target the large-scale high-intensity
variant of these activities? As Thomas (2014) explains, with reference to addressing the
environmental destruction of the aquaculture industry in Thailand, when faced with the
nancial consideration of either paying a low-prot farmer USD 3.14 per metric ton of
carbon dioxide equivalent (t/CO
e) or USD 156 for high-prot farmers to cease production
the reasoning intrinsic to the approach would buy out the low-prot farmer, even if per-
suading the high-prot farmer would be more important from broader socio-ecological con-
cerns. Consequently, the critique put forward by McAfee regarding PES projects generally,
of how market efciency reasoning would restrict smallholder and communal land and
forest use while allowing more protable, more destructive activities to continue
(McAfee 2012, 124), is also tting for blue carbon.
Which type of frontier?
In light of these two sets of blue growth policy solutions, which of the four narratives ident-
ied by Silver et al. (2015) have so far come out on top and what does this mean in terms of
restoring ocean health? With its emphasis on creating the right incentives, building partner-
ships with the private sector and with the international organizations in the driving seat of
global coalitions, the CFI ts squarely within the good businessnarrative. Blue carbon, on
the other hand, with the frustration over the lack of accounting for coastal ecosystem ser-
vices, the all-out emphasis on creating mechanisms to do so as well as the coalitions (inter-
national organizations, governments, ENGOs, scientists etc.) driving it, ts in the natural
capitalbox. As emphasized by the authors themselves, though (Silver et al. 2015), these
two narratives and hence the policy proposals owing from them clearly overlap. The
natural capital framingsproblem and solutionextends to sheries and blue resources gen-
erally not just the coastal ecosystem. For example, WWFs report Reviving the Ocean
Economy aims at valuing the oceans entire asset baseof ecosystem services in order
to give policymakers and corporate executives the ability to account for the real costs of
exploiting ocean resources(Hoegh-Guldberg 2015, 5). Additionally, both the policy pro-
posals highlight the need for market-based approaches through close engagement with the
private sector and impact investorsto nance the transitions toward sustainability.
Taken at face value, this would lend credence to the dominant critical reading of climate
change and biodiversity proposals (Buscher and Fletcher 2015) related to blue resources:
the continuous valuation attempts and creating the nature capital can see(Robertson
2006)is providing a speculative frontier for nance capitalists(Corson, MacDonald,
and Neimark 2013, 269). However, both of these cases suggest that despite persistent
attempts at creating a speculative frontier, accumulation directly through these policies
themselves is so far not happening. The dearth of blue carbon projects generally and the
specic lack of for-prot projects counter the claims of inordinate returnsenvisioned
by proponents in their appeal to nance capital. Similarly, as explained disapprovingly
From the Blue Carbon Initiatives website (BCI n.d.).
142 Mads Barbesgaard
in a recent report enticingly titled Towards investment in sustainable sheries, current
sources of investment are philanthropic and public (Holmes et al. 2014). Despite claims
that the investment case for nancing the transition to sustainability is clear(Holmes
et al. 2014, 4), the actual generation of protinsheries is anything but curing ocean
health or leading to sustainability (2014, 9):
investors have traditionally invested in activities that do not necessarily advance social or
environmental resilience, i.e. they have not invested in conserving the resource base on
which seafood investments depend. In addition, the capital currently deployed to sheries tran-
sition is neither sufcient nor is it effectively organized or leveraged to maximize its impact.
This is emblematic of recent research on the failure of Enterprising Nature(Dempsey
2016) and the arrested developmentof the selling nature to save itstrategy (Dempsey
and Suarez 2016). Based on a review of existing literature on for-prot conservation
(pro and critical) as well as analysis of the sector itself, Dempsey and Suarez (2016,
655) argue that prot-seeking capital remains mostly indifferent to biodiversity conserva-
tion. With reference to how for-prot conservation is negligible and largely outside of
global capital ows, and that the markets created in many cases are dominated by public
actors and often more gurative than literal, they conclude that capital has had biodiversity
conservation dangled before it but so far is not biting(Dempsey and Suarez 2016, 664).
Similarly, the policy proposals reviewed above, which in the name of restoring ocean health
and the pursuit of blue growth are pushing natural-capitalinto a new frontier, have so far
not attracted the investments envisioned. Instead, it is the large-scale extractivist ocean-
based industries that are expanding and providing sources of accumulation from large-
scale sheries (Osterblom et al. 2015) to marine aquaculture (Longo, Clausen, and Clark
2015) to, increasingly, deep-sea mining (OECD 2016). In this manner, the conservation
and climate change mitigation elements of the overall blue growth vision are being out-
maneuvered by the other elements in blue growth that are predicated on continued extrac-
tion and exploitation of blue resources.
Beyond blue growth: food sovereignty?
Despite the failure so far to turn blue resources into enterprising nature, this does not mean
that the discourse of ecosystem services and natural capital is not having an impact. The
increasing hegemony of the blue growth and natural capitalapproach is problematic
due to the fact that it does not challenge existing or potential large-scale extractivist activi-
ties. As noted about the consequences of the enterprising natureapproach generally, it
results in a profoundly narrowed[,] even antipolitical recasting of problems and solutions
related to global environmental change, concealing other ways of interpreting biodiversity
loss rooted in history, power relations, and uneven development(Dempsey and Suarez
2016, 665). In this manner, the only solutions that are deemed realisticto address
climate and environmental destruction are the ones that work in logics appropriate to
business and as such mean that the important thing for pragmaticactors is to work
together with existing power-bases, not with movements or groups with any form of oppo-
sitional politics (Dempsey 2016). Seen in this light, it is indicative that none of the recent
global attempts at pushing sustainable sheriesor blue carbon has included
See also the report Our shared seas: a 2017 overview of ocean threats and conservation funding by
the California Environmental Associates (2017,1821) that makes the same point.
The Journal of Peasant Studies 143
representatives of small-scale sher peoples in policy development in the different global
forums, where they have been developed
and, more generally, how the human
rights-based approach and developmental concerns raised in the blue economy discourse
by sher peoplesmovements (as identied in Silver et al. 2015) are not represented in
the concurrent policy proposals.
In the closing of their paper that considers the different invocations of the blue
economy, Silver and her colleagues (2015, 153) argue that the opportunity remains to
further adopt or subvert the term in ways that advance diverse objectives, progressive poli-
tics, and governance practices in the largest remaining contiguous common spaces.
However, judging from recent interventions by the two global sher movements and
their allies, they are increasingly positing themselves in direct opposition to the policies
associated with blue growth, and reaching out to other social movement allies in the
process. As expressed on blue carbon in a statement released under COP21 of the
UNFCCC in Paris: Instead of these corporate-friendly false solutions, we, the small-
scale shers, together with other small-scale food producers, have the socially and ecolo-
gically just visions and solutions to climate change For us, this starts with the demand
for food sovereignty.
The explicit framing of solutions in terms of food sovereignty is part of a burgeoning
political agenda for the World Forum of Fisher Peoples, who decided to include campaign-
ing around food sovereignty as a tool to resist what they call ocean grabbing at their last
General Assembly in 2014 (WFFP 2014b). This has dovetailed a broader process of
what has been dubbed the convergence of land and water struggles in the past years
(Tramel 2016). The convergence has facilitated increased cooperation among a range of
movements and allies that are resisting diverse resource grabs and placing food sovereignty
at the core of their counter-proposals. Many of the actors, including the shersmovements,
are already associated with the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty
(IPC) (Borras and Edelman 2016). Nonetheless, aside from making statements and partici-
pating in global level meetings, the work on food sovereignty by small-scale shers move-
ments has so far been minimal, and a whole range of important questions remain if this is to
be the central political framing of their struggles.
In light of the continued and exacerbating blue enclosures discussed in this contribution,
the challenging questionaround property in relation to food sovereignty demands
(Edelman et al. 2014) is key. Food sovereignty has from the outset been about what
Patel (2009, 666) calls big tent politics, ensuring that disparate groups can recognize
themselves in the enunciation of a particular programme. Yet, perhaps not surprisingly
in light of the agrarian roots, the conceptual and practical debates remain land-centric.
To what extent can small-scale shersmovements mobilize the term in the struggles
around property and access to the web of resources that they depend on? And, crucially,
which forms of property over these resources should be advocated?
Furthermore, as Bernstein (2014) has argued, even when the movement for food sover-
eignty is understood narrowly as consisting of peasants, exactly who the peasants are and
more generally what the peasant wayis that they are advocating for are unclear and have
considerable internal contradictions. What would it mean for the constituency of small-
scale shers(itself including similar contradictions to the ones Bernstein addresses for
For critique from the two sher peoplesmovements (that is, World Forum of Fisher Peoples
(WFFP) and World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers (WFF)) of the CFI, see WFFP
and WFF (2015a), and for blue carbon see WFFP and WFF (2015b).
144 Mads Barbesgaard
peasants) to take part in the movement for food sovereignty? What does agroecology,
often identied as a vehiclein the food sovereignty movement, mean in a sheries
For a serious convergence to take place, these and many other questions need to be
addressed. Following Schiavonis(2017, 3) recent intervention, though, what food sover-
eignty means and what it might look like, conceptually and in practice, are subject to
ongoing processes of contestation and negotiation. Such processes would only be enriched
through the participation of sher movements contributing to further discussion and analy-
sis of how blue growth visions preclude these broader struggles for food sovereignty.
This contribution has examined and given an overview of blue growth solutions to conserva-
tion and climate change issues. These solutions stress winwinwin outcomes purportedly
aligning the concerns of coastal communities, the environment and investors all at once.
As such, the blue growth-associated policy proposals follow winwinwinrhetoric and
selling nature to save itreasoning, relying on and promoting market-based mechanisms,
under the assumption that the leveraging of self-interest and dangling the nature capital
can seein front of nancial actors will pave the way toward sustainability. I argue that
the policy proposals do not restore ocean health, but rather recast control of and access
to blue resources, with major impacts on small-scale users, while large-scale, capital-inten-
sive uses continue. Additionally, nance capital has so far not engaged in nancing the tran-
sitiontoward what is deemed sustainable use as envisioned by proponents. In this manner,
the blue growth solutions fail even on their own terms. Finally, I argue that the increasingly
hegemonic nature of the blue growth discourse in global policy processes and its antipoli-
ticalframing of climate and environmental change is undermining and precluding progress-
ive and transformative solutions. In an attempt to challenge this, small-scale shers
movements are increasingly framing their opposition in terms of the broader struggle for
food sovereignty. The paper contributes to ongoing theoretical debates on the neoliberali-
zation of nature with a case that challenges straightforward accounts of such processes. The
rise of blue growth and the many new and old conicting claims to and interests in blue
resources suggest there is an urgent need for more critical research that examines the conse-
quences of blue growth from a political economy perspective.
Special thanks for several years of discussions, as well as comments on earlier drafts of this paper, to
Carsten Pedersen, Anders Lund Hansen and Eric Clark. Wim Carton, Seth Macinko and three anon-
ymous reviewers also gave very helpful comments.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author.
Árnason, R. 2000. Property rights as a means of economic organization. In Use of property rights in
sheries management: Proceedings of the FishRights99 Conference, ed. Ross Shotton.
Freemantle: Western Australia. 1119 November 1999. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 404/1.
Rome: FAO, 1425.
The Journal of Peasant Studies 145
BCI. n.d. Coastal ecosystems: Why sound management of coastal ecosystems matters for greenhouse
gas emissions and climate change frequently asked questions.http://thebluecarboninitiative.
org/wp-content/uploads/BC_FAQ_General.pdf (accessed September 15, 2016).
Benediktsson, K., and A. Karlsdóttir. 2011. Iceland, crisis and regional development thanks for all
the sh? European Urban and Regional Studies 18, no. 2: 22835.
Benjaminsen, T. A., and I. Bryceson. 2012. Conservation, green/blue grabbing and accumulation by
dispossession in Tanzania. Journal of Peasant Studies 39, no. 2: 33555.
Bennett, N. J., Hugh Govan, and Terre Sattereld. 2015. Ocean grabbing. Marine Policy 57: 618.
Bernstein, H. 2014. Food sovereignty via the peasant way: A sceptical view. The Journal of Peasant
Studies 41, no. 6: 103163.
Beymer-Farris, B. A., and T. J. Bassett. 2012. The REDD menace: Resurgent protectionism in
Tanzanias mangrove forests. Global Environmental Change 22: 33241.
Bodiguel, C. n.d. The blue growth initiative: In support of food security and nutrition, poverty alle-
viation and healthy oceans. Presentation by Clotilde Bodiguel, Chief Technical Advisor to the
FAO. (accessed September 21, 2017).
Borras, S. M., and M. Edelman. 2016.Political dynamics of transnational Agrarian movements.
Rugby, UK: Practical Action Publishing.
Borras, S. M., and J. C. Franco. 2012. Global land grabbing and trajectories of agrarian change: A
preliminary analysis. Journal of Agrarian Change 12, no. 1: 3459.
Borras, S. M., J. Franco, S. Ngwe, J. La, T. Zin, Y. L. Myint, and Z. Nam. 2016.Intersections of
climate change mitigation initiatives, land grabbing and confclit: The twin challenges of agrarian
and climate justice in Myanmar. The Hague: ISS. Unpublished manuscript.
Bresnihan, P. 2016.Transforming the sheries, neoliberalism, nature and the commons. Lincoln:
University of Nebraska.
Brockington, D., and R. Duffy. 2010. Capitalism and conservation: The production and reproduction
of biodiversity conservation. Antipode 42, no. 3: 46984.
Bromley, D. (Ed.). 1992.Making the commons work: Theory, practice and policy. San Francisco:
Institute for Contemporary Studies Press.
Bromley, D. 2016. Rights-based sheries and contested claims of ownership: Some necessary clari-
cations. Marine Policy 72: 23136.
Buscher, B. 2009. Letters of gold: Enabling primitive accumulation through neoliberal conservation.
Human Geography 2, no. 3: 913.
Buscher, B., and R. Fletcher. 2015. Accumulation by conservation. New Political Economy 20, no. 2:
California Environmental Associates. 2017.Our shared seas: A 2017 overview of ocean threats and
conservation funding.
Campbell, L. M., N. J. Gray, L. Fairbanks, J. J. Silver, R.L. Gruby, B. A. Dubik, and X. Basurto.
2016. Global oceans governance: New and emerging issues. The Annual Review of
Environment and Resources 41: 517543.
Campling, L., and E. Havice. 2014. The problem of property in industrial sheries. The Journal of
Peasant Studies 41, no. 5: 70727.
Campling, L., E. Havice, and P. McCall Howard. 2012. The political economy and ecology of capture
sheries: market dynamics, resource access and relations of exploitation and resistance. Journal
of Agrarian Change 12, no. 23: 177203.
Castree, N. 2008. Neoliberalising nature: The logics of deregulation and reregulation. Environment
and Planning A 40, no. 1: 13152.
Clausen, R., and B. Clark. 2005. The metabolic rift and marine ecology: An analysis of the ocean
crisis within capitalist production. Organization & Environment 18, no. 4: 42244.
Corson, C., K. I. MacDonald, and B. Neimark. 2013. Grabbing Green: Markets, environmental gov-
ernance and the materialization of natural capital. Human Geography 6, no. 1: 115.
Dempsey, J. 2016.Enterprising nature: Economics, markets, and nance in global biodiversity poli-
tics. UK: John Wiley & Sons.
Dempsey, J., and D. C. Suarez. 2016. Arrested development? The promises and Paradoxes of Selling
nature to save it.Annals of the American Association of Geographers 106, no. 3: 65371.
Edelman, M., T. Weis, A. Baviskar, S. M. Borras, E. Holt-Giménez, D. Kandiyoti, and W. Wolford.
2014. Introduction: Critical perspectives on food sovereignty. The Journal of Peasant Studies 41,
no. 6: 91131. JPS-artikel.
146 Mads Barbesgaard
EDF, UCSB, and University of Washington. 2015.The potential for global sh recovery: How effec-
tive sheries management can increase abundance, yield and value. UCSB, University of
Washington & Environmental Defense Fund.
European Commission. 2014. Information from website:
Fairhead, J., M. Leach, and I. Scoones. 2012. Green grabbing: A new appropriation of nature? Journal
of Peasant Studies 39, no. 2: 23761.
FAO. 2015a. FAO contribution to part I of the report of the secretary-general on oceans and the law of
the sea.
FAO. 2015b. Program framework document of the coastal sheries initiative.
FAO. 2015c.Annex 4 - Global coastal sheries initiative: challenge fund (not publicly available -
accessed through WFFPs international secretariat).
GEF. 2016. GEF announces raft of new investments for oceans protection. Press release available at: (accessed
September 16, 2016).
Gordon, H. S. 1954. The economic theory of a common-property resource: The shery. Journal of
Political Economy 62, no. 2: 12442.
Gordon, D., B. C. Murray, L. Pendleton, and B. Victor. 2011.Financing options for blue carbon:
Opportunities and lessons from the REDD+ experience. Durham, NC: Nicholas Inst. Environ.
Policy Solut.
Hall, D. 2003. The international political ecology of industrial shrimp aquaculture and industrial plan-
tation forestry in Southeast Asia. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 34, no. 2: 25164.
Hardin, G. 1968. The tragedy of the commons. Science, New Series 162, no. 3859: 124348.
Harvey, D. 2003.The new imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Herr, D., T. Agardy, D. Benzaken, F. Hicks, J. Howard, E. Landis, A. Soles, and T. Vegh. 2015.
Coastal bluecarbon. Arevised guide to supporting coastal wetland programs and projects
using climate nance and other nancial mechanisms. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.
Heynen, N., J. McCarthy, S. Prudham, and P. Robbins. 2007.Neoliberal environments. London:
Hoegh-Guldberg, O., T. Aqorau, R. Arnason, T. Chansiri, N. Del Rio, H. Demone, S. Earle, et al.
2013.Indispensable Ocean: Aligning ocean health and human well-being. Guidance from the
blue ribbon panel to the global partnership for oceans. Washington, DC: World Bank.
Hoegh-Guldberg, O. 2015.Reviving the ocean economy: The case for action 2015. Gland,
Switzerland: WWF International.
Holmes, L., C. K. Strauss, K. d Vos, and K. Bonzon. 2014.Towards investment in sustainable sh-
eries: A framework for nancing the transition. Environmental Defense Fund and The Prince of
WalesInternational Sustainability Unit.
Høst, J. E. 2013.Captains of nance: An inquiry into market-based sheries management.PhD
Dissertation. University of Copenhagen.
Igoe, J., and D. Brockington. 2007. Neoliberal conservation: A brief overview. Conservation and
Society 5, no. 4: 43249.
IISD. 2016a.Oceans Action Day Bulletin 186 (8).
content=2016-11-17&utm_campaign=RSS2.0 (accessed November 21, 2016).
IISD. 2016b.Earth negotiations bulletin, 25 (11).
(accessed September 19, 2016).
Isaacs, M. 2011. Individual transferable quotas, poverty alleviation and challenges for small-country
sheries policy in South Africa. MAST 10, no. 2: 6384.
Kelly, A. B. 2011. Conservation practice as primitive accumulation. Journal of Peasant Studies 38,
no. 4: 68311.
Longo, S. B., R. Clausen, and B. Clark. 2015.The tragedy of the commodity: Oceans, sheries and
aquaculture. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Macinko, S. 2014. Lipstick and catch shares in the Western Pacic: Beyond evangelism in sheries
policy? Marine Policy 44: 3741.
The Journal of Peasant Studies 147
Manseld, B. 2004. Neoliberalism in the oceans: Rationalisation, property rights, and the commons
question. Geoforum 35: 31326.
Mathiesen, A. 2015.The FAO Blue Growth Initiative - Interview with Arni Mathiesen, Assistant
Director-General FAO. (accessed
September 21, 2017).
McAfee, K. 1999. Selling nature to save it? Biodiveristy and green developmentalism. Environment
and Planning D: Society and Space 17: 13354.
McAfee, K. 2012. The contradictory logic of global ecosystem services markets. Development &
Change 43, no. 1: 10531.
McAfee, K. 2016. Green economy and carbon markets for conservation and development: A critical
view. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 16, no. 3: 33353.
McMichael, P. 2012. The land grab and corporate food regime restructuring. The Journal of Peasant
Studies 39, no. 3-4: 681701.
Neher, P. A., R. Arnason, and N. Mollet. 1989.Rights based shing. Dordrecht / Boston / London:
Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Nelleman, C., E. Corcoran, C. M. Duarte, L. Valdés, C. De Young, L. Fonseca, and G. Grimsditch,
eds. 2009. Blue carbon. The role of healthy oceans in binding carbon. A rapid response assess-
ment. United Nations Environment Programme. GRID-Arendal.
Nichols, K. 1999. Coming to terms with Integrated coastal management: Problems of meaning and
method in a new arena of resource regulation. The Professional Geographer 51, no. 3: 38899.
OECD. 2016.The ocean economy in 2030. Paris: OECD Publishing.
Olson, J. 2011. Understanding and contextualizing social impacts from the privatization of sheries:
An overview. Ocean & Coastal Management 54, no. 5: 35363.
Osterblom, Henrik, Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, Carl Folke, Beatrice Crona, Max Troell, Andrew Merrie,
Johan Rockström, and Athanassios C. Tsikliras. 2015. Transnational corporations as keystone
actorsin Marine ecosystems. PLoS ONE 10, no. 5: e0127533: 115.
Ostrom, E. 1990.Governing the commons; the evolution of institutions for collective action.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Patel, R. 2009. Food sovereignty. The Journal of Peasant Studies 36, no. 3: 663706.
Payne, J. L., A. M. Bush, N. A. Heim, M. L. Knope, and D. J. McCauley. 2016. Ecological selectivity
of the emergin mass extinction in the oceans. Science.doi:10.1126/science.aaf2416.
Robertson, M. M. 2006. The nature that capital can see: Science, state and market in the commodi-
cation of ecosystem services. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24: 36787.
Schiavoni, C. M. 2017. The contested terrain of food sovereignty construction: Towards a historical,
relational and interactive approach. The Journal of Peasant Studies 44, no. 1: 132.
Silver, Jennifer J., Noella J. Gray, Lisa M. Campbell, Luke W. Fairbanks, and Rebecca L. Gruby.
2015. Blue economy and competing discourses in international oceans governance. The
Journal of Environment and Development 24, no. 2: 13560.
Staufer, S. 2015.The future of The blue economy.
economy.html (accessed September 15, 2016).
The Economist. 2015.The ocean business: The rise and rhetoric of the blue economy. Article by
Charles Goddard, Available at:
The Economist Intelligence Unit. 2015. The blue economy: Growth, opportunity and a sustainable
ocean economy.
Thomas, S. 2014. Blue carbon: Knowledge gaps, critical issues, and novel approaches. Ecological
Economics 107: 2238.
Thomas, S. 2016. Between Tun Mustapha and the deep blue sea: The political ecology of blue carbon
in Sabah. Environment, Science and Policy 55: 2035.
Tramel, S. 2016.The road through Paris: Climate change, carbon, and the political dynamics of con-
vergence. Globalizations.doi:10.1080/14747732.2016.1174476.
Vallega, A. 1999. Ocean geography vis-à-vis global change and sustainable development. The
Professional Geographer 51, no. 3: 40014.
Vandergeest, Peter, Mark Flaherty, and Paul Miller. 1999. A political ecology of shrimp aquaculture
in Thailand. Rural Sociology 64, no. 4: 57396.
148 Mads Barbesgaard
Washington Post. 2016.Is the recovery of wild sheries the new J-Curvefor impact investors? Blog
post by David Bank:
(accessed September 15, 2016).
WFFP. 2014a.The global ocean grab: A primer. Amsterdam: The Transnational Institute.
WFFP. 2014b. Report of the 6th General Assembly of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples.http://
WFFP & WFF. 2013.A call for governments to stop supporting the global partnership for oceans
(GPO) and Rights-Based Fishing (RBF) Reforms.
2015/11/WFFP-WFF-Call-on-Governments_GPO_200313.pdf (accessed September 15, 2016).
WFFP & WFF. 2015a.Fisherfolks say no to the Coastal Fisheries Initiative.
wp-content/uploads/2015/11/CFI_Statement.pdf (accessed September 15, 2016).
WFFP & WFF. 2015b.No to Blue Carbon, yes to food sovereignty and climate justice.http:// (accessed September
15, 2016).
WFFP & WFF. 2017.WFF and WFFP Statement on the SDGs and the UNs Ocean Conference.
2017.pdf (Accessed September 21, 2017).
Wolff, M. 2015. From sea sharing to sea sparing is there a paradigm shift in ocean management?
Ocean & Coastal Management 116: 5863.
World Bank. 2016. Oceans, sheries and coastal economies.
environment/brief/oceans (accessed September 15, 2016).
Wylie, L., A. E. Sutton-Grier, and A. Moore. 2016. Keys to successful blue carbon projects: Lessons
learned from global case studies. Marine Policy 65: 7684.
Mads Barbesgaard is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Human Geography and LUCID
research school at Lund University. E-mail:
The Journal of Peasant Studies 149
... Voluntary commitments by institutions and the private sector have made prominent statements in this regard, but on-the-ground actions have focused overwhelmingly on building capacity and very little on public participation in planning and co-management (Voyer, 2021). Importantly in the context of a Blue Economy, promoting more equitable processes and outcomes cannot therefore be voluntary and requires clear regulations and legal recognition for local communities' tenure over marine spaces regardless of the type of ocean sector being considered (Barbesgaard, 2018). Furthermore, existing structures of inequity mean that efforts must be made to ensure that "community" benefits are evenly experienced among different racial, ethnic, gender, and socio-economic groups within a population (Ferguson, 2021). ...
Transitioning to a Blue Economy that prioritizes social equity will be challenging in ocean sectors but could be comparatively easier for newer industries where appropriate guidelines can be followed from the start. We focus here on two emerging ocean sectors—blue carbon and ocean energy—and an evaluation of benefit-sharing agreements at operational sites, and the recipients and types of these benefits. This is an initial yet useful gauge of progress towards integration of social equity concerns as envisioned under a Blue Economy. The number (n = 84) and scale of ocean energy sites is rapidly increasing but highly concentrated in a few regions. The ocean energy sector is currently focused on serving grids in urbanized areas and reducing national emissions, and economic benefit-sharing mechanisms with local residents are less common (35% of all sites). However, some cases show how local communities can be better included in the planning and implementation of ocean energy, including negotiation of subsequent economic benefits. Despite widespread interest in blue carbon, we found very few (n = 4) operational sites; nonetheless, these were deeply involved with and often led by local communities who are the main beneficiaries. Voluntary public and corporate social responsibility actions are useful, but government regulation must play an essential role in requiring equitable processes and supporting equitable outcomes, similar to now-standard environmental regulations to avoid negative impacts and increase the likelihood of ecological sustainability. Emerging ocean sectors have a unique opportunity to advance social equity and environmental sustainability within Blue Economies, but this will be much more easily achieved if equity guidelines are prioritized and mandated so that business-as-usual practices do not become entrenched.
... A second problematization regards emergent blue economy regimes as overwhelmingly characterized by top-down decision-making mechanisms that intensify the privatization of ocean space. Thus, 'ocean grabs' are increasingly seen as direct or indirect outcomes of blue growth initiatives, neatly tying in with the more prominent phenomena of terrestrial land and green grabs (Barbesgaard 2017). Examples include access restrictions or dispossession of coastal communities to make way for protected areas or luxury eco-tourism projects. ...
The role of philanthropic capital in biodiversity conservation is rapidly changing. Philanthropists increasingly seek to bankroll solutions to the biodiversity crisis, scaling up the size of their ambitions and gifts to help close what scientists and policymakers call the “biodiversity financing gap.” This paper interrogates the rising prominence of philanthropic capital in conservation governance, focusing on a class of actors I call “philanthro-environmentalists.” Unlike big, international NGOs and philanthrocapitalists, philanthro-environmentalists do not engage market-based, for-profit approaches to finance conservation. Rather, they engage a “dollars for policy” approach that leverages the power of their philanthropy to improve public conservation outcomes. Taking Chile as a case, I trace how a transnational network of philanthro-environmentalists is using a novel mechanism known as Project Finance for Permanence to exact substantial political and fiscal commitments from the state in exchange for substantive philanthropic support for a mega conservation initiative in Chilean Patagonia. I argue that Project Finance for Permanence targets policymaking as the primary site of philanthropic intervention, affording philanthro-environmentalists greater control over state conservation governance. Yet, I also argue that this case raises serious questions about the limits and implications of leveraging philanthropic capital to solve public environmental problems. Bridging literatures on conservation governance and conservation finance, the paper contributes new conceptual insights into the evolving dynamics of philanthropy-state relations in an age of biodiversity crisis.
Full-text available
Several Marine Protected Areas have been created in the world, in part to fulfill one of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity goals as to preserve at least 10% of each country’s coastal and marine areas. This study aims at analyzing military presence in the Brazilian oceanic islands of Fernando de Noronha, Trindade & Martin Vaz and São Pedro & São Paulo and how it interacts with the environmental approach, since the three encompass Large Scale Marine Protected Areas. A brief overview about the importance of the islands to Brazilian geopolitical thinkers is shown, as well as the theoretical issues regarding the military presence in preserved environmental areas. Those results are then applied to the three Large Scale Marine Protected Areas’ present situation, with the conclusion pointing to a positive feedback loop, with significant and favorable results on environmental and military approaches, as well as regarding geopolitical goals.
Coastal livelihoods and marine environmental protection are key ocean governance concerns. Consequently, the international legal framework addresses these needs in a holistic manner. Maritime boundary delimitation should not be the exception. Increasingly, international courts and tribunals are being asked to incorporate a wider range of issues in the resolution of maritime boundary disputes. Therefore, drawing on the full compendium of international marine boundary dispute cases from 1969 to 2021, this paper examines how litigation over maritime boundary disputes reflects broader ocean governance objectives. It concludes that, first, court cases on maritime boundaries are increasing, and second, environmental and sociocultural motives are gaining prominence in the pleas made by nations. Moreover, our analysis suggests that: a) arguments to the courts progressively emphasize holistic and ecosystem-based management and the recognition of traditional ocean-related living practices; and b) although courts and tribunals are called to weigh other types of factors, they are still more receptive to conventional arguments embodied in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). We argue that the newer arguments should have a greater influence during conflict resolution and maritime delimitation processes, in particular, given the greater need for sustainable and equitable ocean governance.
In the marine environment of Chile, significant protests from small-scale fishers and wider coastal communities have repeatedly stated concerns about Blue Justice. These concerns have specifically been about the areas zoned for aquaculture in the south, and coal powered, smelter, petrochemical port industrial complex contamination found in the north. This chapter identifies the need for participatory, testimonial, epistemic, and decolonial environmental rights, both today and in the context of new constitution to realize marine democracy. A series of case studies are considered from Quintero in the north and Quellon in the south, based on interviews and focus groups. These case studies show that current marine environmental human rights are insufficient, and that the system needs to evolve. Building on literature about critical environmental justice, this chapter identifies next steps towards becoming a marine ecological democracy and theorizes the conditions needed to ascertain Pescastemic rights.
Seafood production and trade have expanded dramatically over the last 40 years and comprise one of the fastest growing, and most environmentally impactful, sub‐sectors of the global food system. While richer nations have increased their seafood consumption and displaced their environmental load, the marine environmental impact of fishery production has largely shifted to the waters of less‐affluent nations. To sustain fishing economies and seafood security, in an era of increasing marine ecological precarity constitutes a major challenge for development and human well‐being in the 21st century. Blue growth perspectives emphasize the transformative power of growth‐oriented development. Such perspectives conflict with critical political economic theories of environment and food systems; notably, the treadmill of production and world food system scholarship. Using annual data from the Global Footprint Network, World Bank, UN FAO, and International Monetary Fund, this study applies methods in cross‐national, panel regression analysis in order to ultimately pose some important challenges to modernist blue growth perspectives. The analysis suggests that economic growth and incorporation into the world market economy have led to unsustainable and inequitable outcomes regarding the marine ecological impact of fisheries.
Full-text available
This article develops a theoretical foundation for understanding the human influence on the oceans and the resulting oceanic crisis as it relates to the depletion of fish stock and the expansion of aquaculture. Drawing on environmental sociology and insights from the historical materialist tradition, the authors study, the nature-society dialectic as it relates to human interactions with the ocean for the capture of fish. We extend Marx's concept of the metabolic rift to the marine environment to (a) understand the human transformations of the ocean ecosystem, (b) examine the anthropogenic (human-generated) causes of fish stock depletion, (c) study the development of aquaculture in response to the oceanic crisis, and (d) reveal the ecological consequences of ongoing capitalist production in relation to the ocean. environment.
Full-text available
This contribution puts forward a historical, relational and interactive (HRI) approach to food sovereignty research. A historical lens allows us to understand the social structures and institutions that condition the politics of food over time and the ways in which the agency of relevant state and societal actors has been, and continues to be, enhanced and exercised, or not, in the political contestation over the food system. A relational lens allows us to capture the process-oriented nature of food sovereignty – the ways in which the very meanings and attempted practices of food sovereignty are being dynamically and contentiously shaped and reshaped over time. An interactive lens allows us to analyze how actors within the state and in society are dialectically linked, molding the construction of food sovereignty through their interactions. Rather than an enquiry into food sovereignty per se, this piece is about efforts toward food sovereignty, partly to address a tendency in the literature and political debates to conflate the two. This is thus an investigation into food sovereignty construction, meaning how food sovereignty is being articulated and attempted, as well as contested – including resisted, refracted or reversed – in a given setting. The case of Venezuela is examined as one of a growing number of countries where food sovereignty has been adopted into state policy and among the longest-running experiments in its attempted construction. Concluding reflections are shared on the extent to which the HRI framework can help us understand the current conjunctural crisis facing Venezuela’s food system, and implications for food sovereignty research and activism more broadly.
Full-text available
Increased interest in oceans is leading to new and renewed global governance efforts directed toward ocean issues in areas of food production, biodiversity conservation, industrialization, global environmental change, and pollution. Global oceans governance efforts face challenges and opportunities related to the nature of oceans and to actors involved in, the scale of, and knowledge informing their governance. We review these topics generally and in relation to nine new and emerging issues: small-scale fisheries (SSFs), aquaculture, biodiversity conservation on the high seas, large marine protected areas (LMPAs), tuna fisheries, deep-sea mining, ocean acidification (OA), blue carbon (BC), and plastics pollution. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Environment and Resources Volume 41 is October 17, 2016. Please see for revised estimates.
Full-text available
Mainstream environmentalism and critical scholarship are abuzz with the promise and perils (respectively) of what we call for-profit biodiversity conservation: attempts to make conserving biodiverse ecosystems profitable to large-scale investment. But to what extent has private capital been harnessed and market forces been enrolled in a thoroughly remade conservation? In this article we examine the size, scope, and character of international for-profit biodiversity conservation. Despite exploding rhetoric around environmental markets over the last two decades, the capital flowing into market-based conservation remains small, illiquid, and geographically constrained and typically seeks little to no profit. This marginal character of for-profit conservation suggests that this project continues to underperform as a site of accumulation and as a conservation financing strategy. Such evidence is at odds with the way this sector is commonly portrayed in mainstream environmental conservation literature but also with some critical geographical scholarship. We present a more puzzling situation: Although for-profit conservation has long been promoted as a logical, easy fix to ecological degradation, it remains negligible to and largely outside of global capital flows.We argue that this project has important consequences, but we understand its effects in terms of how it reaffirms narrowed, antipolitical explanations of biodiversity loss, instills neoliberal political rationalities among conservationists, and forecloses alternative and progressive possibilities capable of resisting status quo logics of accumulation.
There is now widespread agreement that fish stocks are severely depleted and fishing activity must be limited. At the same time, the promise of the green economy appears to offer profitable new opportunities for a sustainable seafood industry. What do these seemingly contradictory ideas of natural limits and green growth mean in practice? What do they tell us more generally about current transformations to the way nature is valued and managed? And who suffers and who benefits from these new ecological arrangements? Far from abstract policy considerations, Patrick Bresnihan shows how new approaches to environmental management are transforming the fisheries and generating novel forms of exclusion in the process. Transforming the Fisheries examines how scientific, economic, and regulatory responses to the problem of overfishing have changed over the past twenty years. Based on fieldwork in a commercial fishing port in Ireland, Bresnihan weaves together ethnography, science, history, and social theory to explore the changing relationships between knowledge, nature, and the market. For Bresnihan, many of the key concepts that govern contemporary environmental thinking-such as scarcity, sustainability, the commons, and enclosure-should be reconsidered in light of the collapse of global fish stocks and the different ways this problem is being addressed. Only by considering these concepts anew can we begin to reinvent the ecological commons we need for the future. © 2016 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska. All rights reserved.
Enterprising Nature explores the rise of economic rationality in global biodiversity law, policy and science. To view Jessica's animation based on the book's themes please visit Examines disciplinary apparatuses, ecological-economic methodologies, computer models, business alliances, and regulatory conditions creating the conditions in which nature can be produced as enterprising. Relates lively, firsthand accounts of global processes at work drawn from multi-site research in Nairobi, Kenya; London, England; and Nagoya, Japan. Assesses the scientific, technical, geopolitical, economic, and ethical challenges found in attempts to 'enterprise nature'. Investigates the implications of this 'will to enterprise' for environmental politics and policy.
To better predict the ecological and evolutionary effects of the emerging biodiversity crisis in the modern oceans, we compared the association between extinction threat and ecological traits in modern marine animals to associations observed during past extinction events using a database of 2497 marine vertebrate and mollusc genera. We find that extinction threat in the modern oceans is strongly associated with large body size, whereas past extinction events were either nonselective or preferentially removed smaller-bodied taxa. Pelagic animals were victimized more than benthic animals during previous mass extinctions but are not preferentially threatened in the modern ocean. The differential importance of large-bodied animals to ecosystem function portends greater future ecological disruption than that caused by similar levels of taxonomic loss in past mass extinction events.
The fisheries literature is undermined by incorrect use of essential legal concepts: (1) property; (2) rights; and (3) property rights. These three ideas are often conflated when the term “rights-based” is applied to fisheries in which individual transferable quotas (ITQs) have been gifted to fishing firms. The confusion then leads to misleading suppositions concerning fishing behavior. For instance, it is often presumed that a “right to fish” (alleged to be represented by an ITQ) is behaviorally analogous to an ownership interest in fish still in the water. This erroneous extension from alleged “ownership” of a quota share to alleged “ownership” of fish stocks gives rise to confusion about how to assure sustainable fisheries governance. Talk of “perfect property rights” associated with an ITQ ads to the conceptual confusion. It is imperative that policy makers understand the difference between an alleged right to hunt for fish (such as a fishing permit or an ITQ) and a property right with respect to fish remaining in the water. The necessary implication for public policy is that private ownership of a natural resource offers no assurance that the resource will be managed sustainably. In fact, the existence of public parks and wilderness areas is evidence that private interests cannot be counted on to align with public interests.
This article tracks the key events that set the stage for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris, particularly as they relate to politics of convergence. One side of this coming together is an intersection of issues, where new terrestrial and aquatic carbon sequestration programs have blurred the margins of climate change mitigation and resource grabbing. These programs, enclosing forests, farmlands, and oceans, are likewise fused together in what can be described as an emerging ‘carbon complex’ that is part of the wider blue/green economy. On the reverse side, the clear intersection of issues as witnessed by radical, and historically sectoral, agrarian/social justice movements is causing them to intertwine in resistance. The realm of climate change has proven to be an exceptional space of struggle and countermovement building. Political interactions between movements have become increasingly sophisticated—requiring frameworks that address environmental, agrarian, and oceanic issues at once, as the issues have become ever more complex. Agrarian/social justice movements maintain that their agendas for food sovereignty and climate justice hinge upon exposing fault lines in the system and advocate overall system change. COP21 and its parallel side events were together a landmark moment, but part of a much more involved process, ‘the road through Paris’, along which movements had carved out transnational and local spaces of convergence against the backdrop of a global carbon complex.