Fiji builds back bluer, strengthening its sustainable ocean economy

SUVA, FIJI, 13 September 2023 – A report launched today outlines how Fiji's economic recovery from the devastating impacts of COVID-19 is taking a blue path. By embracing the potential of its ocean economy, Fiji is fostering sustainable and resilient development, after concluding a two-year roadmap exercise with the Blue Recovery Hubs.

The Blue Recovery Hubs, set up by the Ocean Action Agenda at the World Economic Forum and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, has worked with the Fijian government and other key stakeholders to evaluate the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and to lay out a roadmap for building resilience through enabling sustainable ocean economic development.

Fiji’s Blue Recovery Hub began with an appraisal to assess the state of Fiji’s ocean economy and use the impact of COVID-19 to understand the country’s socio-economic vulnerabilities. The appraisal uncovered key information that the government has used to highlight the magnitude of COVID-19’s impacts and identify critical development pathways to build a more resilient system. It highlighted how COVID-19 caused an economic contraction of >15%, driven largely by an overreliance on the tourism sector which was responsible for 38% of GDP and 35% of employment. The economic and health crisis drove a cascade of social and environment impacts as more than 100,000 people became economically displaced and turned to the environment for a source of nutrition and income.

The Fiji Blue Recovery Hub appraisal highlighted the need for economic diversification and a source of sustainable nutrition and income in times of health, and increasingly, climate disaster. The Government of Fiji identified aquaculture as a leading way to build resilience through the ocean economy, and subsequently the Blue Recovery Hub conducted a Sustainable Investment Pathway assessment into the aquaculture sector – to understand the barriers to development. Stakeholders from the public, private, academic and financial wings of the aquaculture sector convened in March 2023 to discuss the results of the assessment and create momentum for the implementation of recommendations.

Launching today, at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Ocean Science and Ocean Management Conference, the Fiji Aquaculture Sustainable Investment Pathway report outlines how 16 recommendations that were put forward with the support of the Ministry of Fisheries can drive the sectoral development that the Fisheries Strategy and National Development Plan envision. The 16 new recommendations include ways to streamline the planning process, build interest and investment into the vision for the sector, and develop the capacity required for delivering on sectoral development targets.

"We are deeply encouraged by how Fiji has hit the ground running with the recommendations laid out in the Sustainable Investment Pathway," said Alfredo Giron, Head of the Ocean Action Agenda at the World Economic Forum. "All the discussions in Fiji’s Blue Recovery Hub have provided a roadmap to not only recover from the pandemic but to build an even more robust and sustainable ocean economy – and we look forward to engaging with stakeholders from other small island developing states who would be interested in setting up their own hubs."

Since the March convention, the Ministry of Fisheries has collaborated with the Crab Company and Pacific Ocean Culture, seeking to identify and utilize private sector efficiencies in hatchery and brood stock, and unlocking collaborations essential to address feed import challenges. The Ministry of Fisheries has also re-tabled the 2016 Aquaculture Decree, which will act to centralize and streamline some of the licensing and planning process, overcoming key challenges in project development. Key recommendations and discussions remain, including around how different sources of finance can be channeled towards achieving the biggest impacts at different points in the sectoral development process; and how area-based planning for aquaculture could resolve some challenges in land access, stakeholder mobilization and financial support, and help to prioritize cross-sectoral development planning.

The Blue Recovery Hubs are currently also operating in Samoa. In March 2023, the Blue Recovery Hubs team collaborated with 75 stakeholders from all active ocean economy sectors in Samoa. The economic appraisal of the Samoan ocean economy has now been published and additional discussions with Samoan stakeholders will take place this month to identify the sector they will focus on for the next stage of work.

Notes to editor

Media contact

Gemma Parkes, Communications Lead

Friends of Ocean Action and Ocean Action Agenda, World Economic Forum, +41793052977