NEF launch economic action plan to regenerate coastal communities

New Economics Foundation (NEF) News Release, 22nd September 2015: UK seas already support over 750,000 jobs in coastal areas. Yet these communities are often some of the most deprived. Could healthier and more productive seas help provide for more and better jobs in the future?

Coastal communities tend to fare worse than other UK regions on a range of issues. They see higher deprivation levels, higher outward migration, have an older population, are geographically isolated, and have high levels of underemployment.

ONS analysis (Office of National Statistics), drawing on 2011 census data, also highlights a higher than average number of coastal residents suffering from a long-term health problem. These fragile communities are less able to cope with environmental and economic shocks.

Photo credit: Chris Wood

Photo credit: Chris Wood

Coastal communities have an incredible asset at their doorstep. But, for too long now, we have been supporting an unsustainable coastal economy, which fails to recognise the importance of healthy marine ecosystems in delivering our basic needs — such as food, energy and clean air — as well as supporting jobs and revenues.

What’s gone wrong?

Marine vertebrate populations declined 49 per cent between 1970 and 2012 and commercial fish stocks have fallen by half, with some of the most important species experiencing even greater declines.

The degradation and pollution of our coastal and marine environment has been due to our failure to properly manage these natural resources. This has led to decades of unfulfilled potential — fewer jobs, lower revenues and unnecessary public costs.

Future threats

Climate change will only make this worst and it is coastal communities that will be immediately affected, most visibly through rising sea levels. Climate change is also likely to harm coastal communities the most because of the vulnerable socio-economic state many find themselves in.

More severe heat waves particularly affect the elderly and those with pre-existing health problems. Extreme weather will affect coastal infrastructure, posing challenges to isolated areas and those with older populations who are reliant on public services such as transport and health. More frequent flooding would be likely to bring down house prices and discourage further investment.

What do jobs have to do with this?

The UK coast currently supports more than 750,000 direct jobs (2013 data, latest available), within sectors which rely on a healthy marine environment to generate economic benefits.

The declining health of our seas will hit the livelihoods of these people who depend on the coast for employment, for example through fishing, marine recreation and tourism.

NEF launch economic action2

Coastal tourism and marine recreation is still the largest employer among the maritime sectors, providing 82.7% of the jobs. Other traditional sectors such as ports & shipping and shipbuilding provide a further 4.3% (32,502 jobs) and 3.0% (23,034 jobs), respectively.

Fishing and related industries provide a further 4.4% (fish processing 2.8% and fishing 1.6%). But, this is far less than it used to be. The UK fishing industry currently employs about one-third of the number of fishers employed in the 1940s. Fewer jobs have been a direct consequence of our mismanagement of a renewable resource.

Newer industries such as renewable energy and aquaculture stand at 2.5% and 0.3%, respectively. While this may seem small at present, these industries are still maturing and could grow significantly over the next few years.

In fact, many of these sectors still have potential for growth — but only through a move towards sustainability, investment and a commitment to healthy seas.

A Blue New Deal

The Blue New Deal initiative, led by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), will work to demonstrate that it is possible to balance the economic and social needs of communities with those of our marine environment, ensuring a future of prosperity.

Today, we are bringing together coastal MPs and a number of coastal stakeholders to officially launch this initiative. We will work together with the range of different voices and interests to develop an action plan to help turn this vision into a reality.

To learn more about the initiative and help NEF get there, please visit

NEF News Release, 22nd September 2015. For further details, see

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