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Something old, something new: Historical perspectives provide lessons for blue growth agendas

Caswell, Bryony A.; Klein, Emily S.; Alleway, Heidi K.; Ball, Johnathan E.; Botero, Julián; Cardinale, Massimiliano; Eero, Margit; Engelhard, Georg H.; Fortibuoni, Tomaso; Giraldo, Ana Judith; Hentati-Sundberg, Jonas; Jones, Peter; Kittinger, John N.; Krause, Gesche; Lajus, Dmitry L.; Lajus, Julia; Lau, Sally C.Y.; Lescrauwaet, Ann Katrien; MacKenzie, Brian R.; McKenzie, Matthew; Ojaveer, Henn; Pandolfi, John M.; Raicevich, Saša; Russell, Bayden D.; Sundelöf, Andreas; Thorpe, Robert B.; zu Ermgassen, Philine S.E.; Thurstan, Ruth H.


Emily S. Klein

Heidi K. Alleway

Johnathan E. Ball

Julián Botero

Massimiliano Cardinale

Margit Eero

Georg H. Engelhard

Tomaso Fortibuoni

Ana Judith Giraldo

Jonas Hentati-Sundberg

Peter Jones

John N. Kittinger

Gesche Krause

Dmitry L. Lajus

Julia Lajus

Sally C.Y. Lau

Ann Katrien Lescrauwaet

Brian R. MacKenzie

Matthew McKenzie

Henn Ojaveer

John M. Pandolfi

Saša Raicevich

Bayden D. Russell

Andreas Sundelöf

Robert B. Thorpe

Philine S.E. zu Ermgassen

Ruth H. Thurstan


The concept of “blue growth,” which aims to promote the growth of ocean economies while holistically managing marine socioecological systems, is emerging within national and international marine policy. The concept is often promoted as being novel; however, we show that historical analogies exist that can provide insights for contemporary planning and implementation of blue growth. Using a case-study approach based on expert knowledge, we identified 20 historical fisheries or aquaculture examples from 13 countries, spanning the last 40–800years, that we contend embody blue growth concepts. This is the first time, to our knowledge, that blue growth has been investigated across such broad spatial and temporal scales. The past societies managed to balance exploitation with equitable access, ecological integrity and/or economic growth for varying periods of time. Four main trajectories existed that led to the success or failure of blue growth. Success was linked to equitable rather than open access, innovation and management that was responsive, holistic and based on scientific knowledge and monitoring. The inability to achieve or maintain blue growth resulted from failures to address limits to industry growth and/or anticipate the impacts of adverse extrinsic events and drivers (e.g. changes in international markets, war), the prioritization of short-term gains over long-term sustainability, and loss of supporting systems. Fourteen cross-cutting lessons and 10 recommendations were derived that can improve understanding and implementation of blue growth. Despite the contemporary literature broadly supporting our findings, these recommendations are not adequately addressed by agendas seeking to realize blue growth.


Caswell, B. A., Klein, E. S., Alleway, H. K., Ball, J. E., Botero, J., Cardinale, M., …Thurstan, R. H. (2020). Something old, something new: Historical perspectives provide lessons for blue growth agendas. Fish and Fisheries, 21(4), 774-796.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 6, 2020
Online Publication Date Apr 6, 2020
Publication Date 2020-07
Deposit Date May 20, 2020
Publicly Available Date Apr 7, 2021
Journal Fish and Fisheries
Print ISSN 1467-2960
Electronic ISSN 1467-2979
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 4
Pages 774-796
Keywords Ecosystem services; Environmental history; Fisheries; Historical ecology; Marine policy; Sustainable development
Public URL
Publisher URL


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©2020 The authors. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder

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