Costasol Cruceros catamaran in Benalmádena. SUR
What opportunities are there in the sea on the Costa del Sol?: The blue economy confirms its growing strength in Malaga

What opportunities are there in the sea on the Costa del Sol?: The blue economy confirms its growing strength in Malaga

Tourism, aqua-farming, fishing, watersports, port and marina activities, underwater archaeology? It is estimate there are around 700 companies in the province dedicated in one way or another to business and trade arising from the Mediterranean

Alba Tenza


Friday, 5 July 2024, 12:14

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Boat trips, diving lessons, fishing activities, aqua-farming, shipbuilding, ports.... The list of possibilities for economic development that the sea offers in a province like Malaga, with more than one hundred kilometres of coastline, seems endless. This is how the term 'blue economy' identifies the role of the seas as an economic source of income, taking into account the importance of managing its resources efficiently, restoring damaged ecosystems and introducing innovative ideas that allow for sustainable use in the future. "Malaga has turned its sights to the sea as has happened in Andalucía and we can say that 2024 is the definitive year for the consolidation of the Sustainable Blue Economy in the whole region and particularly in this maritime province," says Javier Noriega to SUR. Noriega is founder and president of the Andalusian Maritime-Marine Cluster (CMMA), an association of innovative companies that work in the different sub-sectors of the blue economy seeking to move forward in these businesses, making the most of technology whilst also ensuring sustainability.

CMMA estimates that there are around 700 companies in the province dedicated in one way or another to business and trade arising from the sea. The figure provided by the Department of Sustainability, Environment and Blue Economy of Andalucía's Junta is much higher: it speaks of 12,327 companies linked to the blue economy in Malaga province. The difference lies in the fact that this calculation includes tourism companies, which number no less than 11,287. The Andalusian government has also identified 762 companies involved in living marine resources; 182 in logistics, ports and maritime transport of goods; 95 in shipbuilding and auxiliary industries, and one in non-living marine resources. Together they account for more than 44,000 jobs.

The managers of some of the companies in this sector in Malaga agree that it is a strategically important sector and that the possibilities for further growth are enormous. "The money invested in the blue economy multiplies more at sea than on land. Before, everyone had their backs to the sea and did not see all the business involved in something like a port community," says Adrian Westendorp, vice-president of CMMA and CEO of Alnasur, a company that has its own operational boats to support both research and maritime work as needed. This Malaga-based company plays a fundamental role in the development of the province's blue economy because, as well as having a 26-metre vessel for setting up safety beacons along the coast, the placement of oceanographic buoys or professional diving work, it specialises in cleaning beaches and ports with smaller decontamination boats.

'Blue tourism' is now an essential part of Malaga's economy, comprising five main branches: blue gastronomy, coastal tourism, nautical tourism, cruises and diving, not forgetting what the port of Malaga means for the province's GDP.

The Minister for Sustainability, the Environment and the Blue Economy, and government spokesman, Ramón Fernández-Pacheco, recently stressed in Cadiz that the blue economy is a sector that already contributes 11.09% of Andalucía's GDP. This was during his speech at the 2nd Sustainability Forum with Andalucía on the rostrum, something that Noriega sees as logical, given the role that the sea plays in the region.

"The growth in Andalucía has been exponential, sustained and continues to have ample room for expansion in the coming years. In the cluster we were pioneers of keeping in mind that blue growth should have the components of innovation, technology and sustainability, so it is a disruptive sector that creates opportunities practically every day for the people of Andalucía", says Noriega. He goes on to reiterate that, with the creation of a specific ministry for the blue economy, a giant step has been taken, unifying all policies related to the seas and oceans under a single department.

Andalucía's strategy to be a leader in blue growth

The expectation of companies in Malaga regarding the future Sustainable Blue Economy Strategy of Andalucía's regional government can be summed up as a way of putting Andalucía at the forefront of the blue economy at a global level. "It was something we believed to be essential and we will be, together with all the companies in the sector, involving more than 650 experts from our industry in the work of diagnosis and reflection in order to listen to everyone," says the president of CMMA, Javier Noriega, who points out that the document will come out in the coming months, with proposals to continue building the sustainable blue economy of Andalucía.

Malaga is one of the great 'blue' powers of Andalucía, renewing the tourism paradigm. "When we started more than 27 years ago, nautical tourism was for the elite, now anyone can hire our activity, whether for transport or to experience a dolphin sighting, we have been influenced by the consolidation of the blue economy, especially for being a company that practises responsible tourism, as it is what our tour operators demand of us," says Verania Medina, sales, quality and marketing director of Costasol Cruceros, which celebrates its ninth award of the Blue Flag, an international recognition of sustainability.

Seventeen years ago the president of Enerocean, Pedro Mayorga, started out in business in the province when the blue economy as a business term did not yet exist. "In 2007, we started to look at the sea to see what options there were for using technologies to exploit energy from waves and currents," says Mayorga, who acknowledges the leading role in technological development that the province plays at international level in the blue economy becoming established. He admits "there is still a lot to be done and defined at national level, as Spain has been looking for a long time to define the regulations to be applied". Thus says the president of what was the first company in the world to install a floating wind platform with a double turbine in the sea, specifically the W2Power prototype in Gran Canaria.

The archaeologist from Nerea Arqueología Subacuática, Verónica Navarrete, points out that we must not forget that Malaga faces the sea and that we must look beyond just the sun and sand. "Underwater architecture is less exploited, but many sites have a lot of economic value in terms of the relationship between the sea and the land," she states. For his part, Pedro Argüello, the commercial manager of Marine Visión, dedicated to underwater robotics, points out how his company is experiencing the consolidation of the blue economy in the province as an evolution, as the term has been globalised, despite the fact that this submerged economy has always existed.

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