Ocean Accounting

The WIOGEN Ocean Accounting Working Group will parallel similar Ocean Accounting Working Group initiatives within the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) and the African Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) Communities of Practice.

Western Indian Ocean countries are increasingly turning to their oceans to foster economic growth and ocean resource – use security in what are termed ocean economies. Governance of such resource – uses is becoming critical in ocean policy development and management, and “blue economy” approaches to such governance are centred on the pillars of sustainability and inclusivity. Aspects of ocean policy development are often spatial in nature, resulting in countries turning to Marine Spatial Planning or Integrated Coastal Zone Management to drive the necessary trade-off decision making processes. Trade–offs require value estimations and ocean economies have in the past been largely valued as sectoral contributions to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Ocean Accounting provides novel approaches to the integration of available social, economic and environmental information pertaining to the ocean and ocean economy, in consistent and standardised manners. Drawing on both accepted and novel accounting frameworks to incorporate ocean metrics, ocean accounts provide opportunities to track the performance of ocean policy and planning, and to measure the growth, social inclusivity and environmental sustainability of an ocean economy and ocean resource-use. Inclusion of recognised national accounting frameworks (including the System of National Accounts, the System of Environmental Economic Accounts (SEEA) – Central Framework and the SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounts (under revision), along with guidance on risk, social and governance accounting, the Ocean Accounts Framework (as developed by the Global Ocean Accounts Partnership) provides a more holistic understanding of the contribution of oceans to national welfare than the often – estimated ocean contribution to GDP (which often provides little understanding of natural capital asset extent and condition, the flows of ecosystem services from such assets (particularly non-market flows) and the social equity or inclusivity of ocean economies). Such inclusivity and sustainability are important pillars of “blue economy” approaches to ocean resource–uses.

By providing qualifiable and quantifiable physical and monetarised values of the benefits from and costs to economic, social and environmental systems of an ocean economy, ocean accounts provide important inputs into spatial planning, economic strategy development, sustainability indicators and measures of inclusivity that are consistent and standardised across spatial and temporal domains. Value metrics estimated over time provide trend data that are critical in evidence based ocean governance and policy development, including in trade-offs to balance ocean resource use and sustainability and inclusivity.

Importantly, ocean accounts allow countries to countries to monitor three critical trends:

  • changes in ocean wealth, including of “non-produced” ecosystem assets;
  • ocean-related income and welfare for different groups of people;
  • ocean-based economic production.

The aim of the Working Group will be to introduce and advance ocean accounts to WIOGEN members with particular reference to ocean spatial management and the interfacing of accounting metrics (across environmental, social and economic domains) in ocean governance and policy development. Training in ocean accounting will form a major component of the Working Group activities.

Ken Findlay is the lead for this working group. He is the incumbent CPUT Research Chair: Oceans Economy at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. The main focus of this Chair centres on ocean resource-use governance in the context of expanding ocean economies, and the alignment of sustainability and inclusivity within blue economy approaches to governance processes. Ken has worked extensively across the Western Indian Ocean and in the different resource-uses sectors of the region.

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