The economic and social benefits of ocean resource use have motivated numerous nations, including South Africa, to turn to their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) to advance economic development initiatives. Such initiatives result in increasing and spatially competitive pressures on ocean systems, compromising ecosystem services and market and non-market ocean benefits. It is critical to prioritise sustainable development in any ocean or blue economy advancement programmes. This paper explores multiple definitions of the ocean and blue economies, discusses the importance of adopting blue economy models, and examines how the South African Operation Phakisa – Unlocking the Ocean Economy initiative presents numerous features aligned with ocean sustainable development, sustainability, and inclusivity, which strongly align it to a blue economy model.