Ocean tourism is a driving force of the Mauritius economy; due to a slowdown in the sector, government is exploring new ways of utilizing the ocean and its resources.
The tourism sector in Mauritius has developed rapidly over the past decade and is currently a major contributor to economic growth on the island, accounting for up to 11% of total GDP. In the wake of the global financial crisis, tourism in Mauritius has slowed down, inciting fear in a small nation that has become accustomed to steady growth rates. In response to this slow down, Prime Minister Dr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam plans to create an ‘ocean economy’ aimed at tapping into the vast potential of the available ocean resources.
The term ‘ocean economy’ implies the strategic development of a variety of marine related industries. Business opportunities in this field can be grouped into five clusters: marine services (marine tourism and marine pharmaceuticals); petroleum, minerals, and ocean energies; fisheries and aquaculture; seaport related activities; and deep ocean water applications. There has already been some development in the marine pharmaceutical sector. Advanced research on marine sponges has shown these organisms could potentially be used in drugs for cancer treatment; there has also been an ongoing search for eight marine organisms known to be beneficial in pharmaceutical products and valuable to the industry as a whole. Plans for a pump that would cycle cold deep water to cool buildings are also gaining momentum. The project aims at reducing carbon emissions on the island and reducing the environmental impact of the country. In general, the plan for an ocean economy will ideally restore economic growth, diversify the economy, and protect it from future external fluctuations.
Environmentalists and animal rights activists have voiced concerns over the effect of increased resource pressure on the health of the ocean ecosystem. The Mauritian government has responded by emphasizing their sustainable approach towards the development of the ‘ocean economy’. Mauritius has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a law that demands the protection and preservation of the marine environment. If Mauritius can utilize this vast resource in a sustainable manner, it may prove to be a winning strategy to consolidate an already strong economy.