EU Science Hub

How big is the EU's Blue Economy? The EU report on potential of coasts and oceans to provide for sustainable economic growth published

The annual report analyses the scope and size of the blue economy in the EU
The annual report analyses the scope and size of the blue economy in the EU
May 16 2019

The European Union's blue economy continues growing. The economic activities related to oceans, seas and coastal areas recorded gross profit of EUR 74.3 billion in 2017, with 4 million persons employed, which is an increase of half a million since 2011.

Those figures come from the second edition of the EU blue economy report, published during the annual European Maritime Day conference in Lisbon, on 16 May 2019.

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the JRC said: "Though our oceans cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface, we know less about what lies beneath the waves than we do about faraway planets. This prevents us from making the most of our resources while protecting marine ecosystems. The second Report on the European Blue Economy aims to change that. It reflects the importance that the European Commission attaches to a robust, evidence-based approach. Our oceans and seas can help us in tackling the challenges facing humanity; creating prosperity without endangering that of future generations."

Blue economy – important sector of EU economy

The gross value added (GVA) generated by the six EU blue economy established sectors covered in this report, which are coastal tourism; extraction and commercialisation of marine living resources; marine extraction of minerals, oil and gas; ports, warehousing and water projects; shipbuilding and repair; and maritime transport, amounted to EUR 180 billion in 2017, a 8% increase compared to 2009.

Gross operating profit at EUR 74.3 billion, was 2% higher than in 2009; and total turnover was EUR 658 billion, 11% more than in 2009.

The contribution of the EU blue economy established sectors to the overall economy was almost 2% in terms of employment and 1.3% in terms of GVA.

Blue economy across EU Member States

The contribution varies widely across Member States. In absolute terms, the five largest Member States, the UK, Spain, Germany, France and Italy, are the largest contributors to the EU Blue Economy, in terms of both employment (with a combined contribution of 61%) and GVA (a combined contribution of 70%).

Other countries with significant contribution in terms of either employment or GVA include Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark.

The Blue Economy exceeds 5% of national GVA or employment in the insular Member States and the Members States with numerous archipelagos: Greece, Croatia, Malta and Cyprus.

Estonia, Spain, Portugal and Denmark also have relatively large Blue Economy sectors (contribution between 3% and 5% on the total national for GVA or employment).

For self-evident reasons, the Blue Economy’s contribution to the national economy is very limited (below 0.5%) in the landlocked Member States (Luxembourg, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary).

Other Member States with a relatively modest Blue Economy (between 0.5% and 1.0% of the national economy) include Belgium, Slovenia and Romania.

The last section of the report includes detailed fact sheets on every EU Member State.

Growing employment

The established sectors of the EU blue economy directly employed over 4 million people in 2017, a 7.2% increase compared to 2009 and 14% more than in 2014 (the lowest level reached in the period analysed). This increase was largely driven by the coastal tourism and ports, warehousing and construction of water projects sectors.

Growing sectors: coastal tourism, fisheries and aquaculture

The economic performance of coastal tourism and extraction of marine living resources (i.e., fisheries and aquaculture) have been increasing steadily. For fisheries, this is in part due to low fuel prices and recovery of some key fish stocks.

Affected sectors: port activities, oil and gas extraction

Port activities, shipbuilding and maritime transport have been severely affected by the economic crisis in 2008-9, in particular due to the slowdown in global production and trade.

Despite recent positive trends, certains segments continue to face important difficulties.

Offshore extraction of oil and gas has been also affected by the low fuel prices and the dwindling reserves.

This has led to a decrease in this activity that can be seen in a decrease in the economic performance, employment and investments.

Moreover, the actual blue economy goes well beyond the established sectors.

New innovative and emerging sectors, such as wind energy and biotechnology, have witnessed exponential growth in recent years.

However, they are also met with challenges (wind energy production continues to be cheaper on land than offshore).

Blue economy - broader analysis

The second edition of the report  also incorporates various new elements and content, including the innovative, high-potential maritime sectors, such as blue energy, including offshore wind energy and ocean energy, blue bioeconomy, marine minerals, desalination, coastal and environmental protection, ecosystem services and maritime defence and security.

A preliminary analysis by sea basin has been added, as well as a number of in-depth case studies, e.g. on the economic impacts of marine protected areas or the contribution of the research and education sector to blue economy jobs.

The report comprises a section on ecosystem services and natural capital, addressing the costs and economic impact of climate change and mitigation measures.

Blue Indicators IT tool

The report is accompanied by an IT tool, allowing users to easily visualise, extract and download much of the report data.

Readers will also be able to download the full report, as well as the accompanying infographics and detailed methodology.


The Annual Report on the EU Blue Economy aims to analyse the scope and size of the blue economy in the European Union, creating a baseline to support policymakers and stakeholders in the quest for sustainable development of oceans, seas and coastal resources.

The document was prepared in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries jointly with the Commission's science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC).