CfP POLLEN18 – Blue Degrowth and the Politics of the Sea: Rethinking the Blue Economy

CFP: Blue Degrowth and the Politics of the Sea: Rethinking the Blue Economy

For the Second Biannual Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN)

POLLEN18: Political Ecology, the Green Economy, and Alternative Sustainabilities

Organizers: Maria Hadjimichael, University of Cyprus & Irmak Ertör, Autonomous University of Barcelona 

Over the last decade(s), the seas and the oceans have become new spaces for the expansion of infinite growth imaginaries. Whether termed ‘Blue Growth’ or the ‘Blue Economy’, such perspectives have adopted a similar standpoint to -and expectations of- the development of industrial and capitalized agriculture termed the ‘Green Revolution’, as well as terrestrial extractivist industries. With such parallelism, they indicate the new shifts towards the exploration of new markets and the exploitation of the ocean, seas, and coasts. In this way, the seas and the ocean have become a new commodity frontier for further capital accumulation (Campling 2012; Saguin 2016), and thus ocean-based economies reflect a new exciting element in the illusion of economic growth.

Recent trends in different geographies imply this illusion of different regional and international institutions in marine and economic policies they adopt. In the European Union, ‘Blue Growth’ is described as “the long term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole” and the “seas and oceans as drivers for the European economy with great potential for innovation and growth” (European Commission, 2017). Marine aquaculture, coastal tourism, biotechnology, ocean energy, and seabed mining are the main five sectors this strategy calls for focusing upon. In Africa, the Blue Economy is also strongly on the agenda, included as a key policy framework for the continent’s future socio-economic development as mentioned in the African Union’s ‘Agenda 2063’. Meanwhile, UN Economic Commission for Africa developed in 2016 a ‘policy handbook’ describing maritime development as ‘the new frontier of African Renaissance’ (ECA 2016). The World Bank (2017) has also picked the term defining it as “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health”.

In light with these recent trends, there has been limited critical discussion around the new terms in the academic sphere let alone in the wider societal -and political economic- sphere(s). Winder & Le Heron (2017) and Morissey (2017) engage in a discussion bringing in the issue of Blue Economy in the Human Geography whilst Hadjimichael (under revision) has used the failure of the neoliberal EU fisheries policies to argue against Blue Growth.

Therefore, this panel on “Blue Degrowth and the Politics of the Sea” aims to take these discussions back and place them at the right foundations by asking fundamental questions:

(i) Who are the social actors pushing for and benefitting from a Blue Growth and why?

(ii) How do different actors contest Blue Growth initiatives?

(iii) How can we use degrowth ideas and questions to engage with the politics of the sea?

The endeavor to explore the potential of Blue Degrowth is part of the wider Degrowth project, “a rejection of the illusion of growth, a call to repoliticize the public debate colonized by the idiom of economism” and one which advocates the “democratically-led shrinking of production and consumption with the aim of achieving social justice and ecological sustainability” (D’Alisa et al., 2015). In order to expand these debates on the marine area, which is currently at stake of further capitalist expansion and neoliberal policies, we aim to focus on Blue Degrowth and the Politics of the Sea.

We are seeking for both theoretical and empirical contributions varying in scope, whether this is geographical, sectoral, historical etc.

Please send an abstract of 200-300 words to & by the 13th of December 2017. Contributions can include but are not limited to:


Tourism and Blue Degrowth

Marine aquaculture and Blue Degrowth

Industrial fishing, small-scale fisheries and Blue Degrowth

Deep sea/ seabed mining

Mineral/gas exploration

Marine transportation

Marine biotechnology

Conceptual and theoretic:

Degrowth and the politics of the sea

Environmental justice

Food sovereignty and agroecology

Valuation languages

Social metabolism

Environmental conflicts


Campling, L., 2012. The tuna “commodity frontier”: Business strategies and environment in the industrial tuna fisheries of the Western Indian Ocean. Journal of Agrarian Change, 12(2–3), pp.252–278.

D’Alisa, G., Demaria, F., & Kallis, G., eds., 2015. Degrowth: a vocabulary for a new era. Abingdon: Routledge.

ECA (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa), 2016. Africa’s Blue Economy: A policy handbook. Available at:

European Commission, 2017. Blue Growth. Available at:

Morrissey, K., 2017. It’s not just a Blue Economy moment… Dialogues in Human Geography, 7(1), pp.42-44.

Saguin, K., 2016. Blue Revolution in a Commodity Frontier: Ecologies of Aquaculture and Agrarian Change in Laguna Lake, Philippines. Journal of Agrarian Change, 16(4), pp.571–593.

Winder, G.M. & Le Heron, R., 2017. Assembling a Blue Economy moment? Geographic engagement with globalizing biological-economic relations in multi-use marine environments. Dialogues in Human Geography, 7(1), pp.3-26.

World Bank, 2017. What is the Blue Economy? Infographic, June 6. Available at:

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