Approximately 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, 96.5 percent resides in the oceans. The ocean’s resources provide countries with a myriad of economic opportunities—in fact over 3 billion people rely on the ocean for their livelihood. It makes up a significant portion of the Blue Economy. The World Bank defines the blue economy as “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems.”
The global blue economy is valued at $2.5 trillion annually, and is projected to double in size by 2030 when compared to 2010 figures. Numerous industries are included in the blue economy such as offshore renewable energy, maritime transport, sustainable seafood, and oceanographic research. Fisheries and aquaculture, provide about 260 million jobs and contribute approximately $100 billion per year to the global economy. The blue economy also has a positive impact on climate change by supporting green energy with various forms of offshore renewable energy.
In the U.S., NOAA reports that the American blue economy contributed approximately $373 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product and supported 2.3 million jobs in 2018. In June 2022, the White House announced its first-ever Ocean Climate Action Plan, with recommended steps to improve the conditions of the ocean. More recently, the concept of the New Blue Economy has been introduced, which improves upon the traditional blue economy by harnessing the power of big data.
Innovative technologies that can drive the blue economy have caught the attention of various U.S. agencies and national labs. NOAA, for example released its Blue Economy Strategic Plan (2021-2025), which focuses on five sectors: marine transportation, ocean exploration, seafood competitiveness, tourism and recreation, and coastal resilience. The DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is interested in exploring the blue economy as it relates to marine energy, and sees many potential market opportunities in desalination, isolated power systems, aquaculture, and more.
Interested in learning more? A variety of conferences focusing on either the ocean economy or blue economy will be held in 2023. In February, Portugal will host the 10th annual World Ocean Summit & Expo. Then in March, Duke University will hold its second-annual Blue Economy Summit. Also, the annual Our Ocean conference, which began as a U.S. Department of the State initiative, will take place in Panama in March.