Creating value from a blue economy

We studied initiatives to create economic value from sustainable marine activities that are based on healthy ecosystems. We used the findings to map and model a blue economy.

Project Leader Duration Budget
Nick Lewis (University of Auckland) April 2016 – September 2019 $1,135,000


In recent years, advocates for sustainable oceans have focused attention on building a sustainable ‘blue economy’, where innovative practices that promote and sustain diverse industries are based on healthy marine ecosystems.  

We studied Aotearoa New Zealand-based initiatives to create economic value from sustainable marine practices and activities. We considered five broad and overlapping marine sub-economies (iwi, techno-science, commodity, community, and small business), and investigated connections between them.

Our research focused on:   

  • Defining what a blue economy means for Aotearoa New Zealand and working with economic enterprises and agencies to ensure that its opportunities are recognised and realised
  • Ensuring that blue economy considerations are incorporated into models of ecosystem-based management
  • Identifying sites and possibilities for transitions to a blue economy  
  • Identifying and supporting regional development initiatives to foster regional blue economies and develop their potential
  • Highlighting specific enterprise-level production and investment practices that are helping to bring about a blue economy. 


We found several activities are helping Aotearoa New Zealand transition to a blue economy. These include: 

  • Investor commitments to sustainable futures (Seafood New Zealand’s ‘Our Promise’ campaign), consumer-oriented and community education programmes;
  • the emergence of Māori enterprises with long term and kaitiakitanga approaches to blue economy;
  • blue economy champions (individuals and organisations) who support participatory resource management processes;
  • and a host of practices from precision seafood harvesting to harvesting of seaweed.


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This is a national project.