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Oceans and fisheries

Blue bioeconomy and blue biotechnology

The emerging blue bioeconomy and biotechnology sectors look at groups of marine organisms that until now often have been ignored for commercial exploitation.

This includes microorganisms (microalgae, bacteria and fungi), algae and invertebrates (e.g. starfish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins).

The blue bioeconomy turns aquatic biomass into food, feed, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, energy, packaging, clothes and much more.

Blue biotechnology is the application of science and technology to living aquatic organisms for the production of knowledge, goods and services (OECD, 2016).

Objectives

The blue bioeconomy is developing fast in Europe and it benefits from strong research and stakeholder engagement by the EU. But its development is uneven. While in some regions and countries, several innovative products are already available on the market, this is not yet the case everywhere in the EU. The European Commission therefore works with European stakeholders to ensure a level playing field through the Blue bioeconomy forum.

An overarching EU algae initiative, planned for 2022, will boost the blue bioeconomy sector by supporting research and innovation, collecting and mapping data and information, improving the regulatory and governance framework and supporting market developments.

Algae

Algae are an incredibly versatile material, with potential new applications in various sectors of the economy. They are being used to develop new pharmaceuticals (e.g. to treat viral infections like Covid or heal wounds), bring healthy food to the market or substitute fish oil in animal feed. Adding algae to cattle diets can help reduce the methane emissions from bovines. Seaweed aquaculture, especially if combined with shellfish aquaculture, will not only provide healthy food but also contribute to ecosystem services: carbon sequestration, removal of nutrients and CO2, ecosystem support, ocean habitat restoration, coastal ecosystem resilience…

Algae also have a potential to be used for cosmetics (anti-aging moisturisers, toothpaste), crop nutrition/bio-fertilizers, bio-packaging (packaging, coatings and plastic films for food containers), energy (biofuel) etc.

Beyond these examples, seaweed has many more innovative applications which are still being developed or scaled, including textile fibres, laundry detergents, construction materials, and biochar for soil improvement.

Thanks to EU investment in the blue bioeconomy, these developments will lead to new jobs and sustainable growth in coastal regions, and much beyond.

Media

Euronews Ocean: The ocean, a source of treatment for some of the world's worst diseases. March 2021.

Euronews Ocean: The ocean, a source of treatment for some of the world's worst diseases

The ocean could hold the cure to the worst threats to public health. Researchers and experts are using some of the most unknown marine bioresources to make compounds to improve our health and they're doing so without damaging the sea. 

Euronews Ocean: Seaweed farming: an economic and sustainable opportunity for Europe. June 2020.

Euronews Ocean: Seaweed farming: an economic and sustainable opportunity for Europe

Ocean explores Europe's growing seaweed sector meeting the farmers trying to put the industry on a more sustainable footing. 

The Algae biomass in Europe. February 2021.

The Algae biomass in Europe

An explanatory video (archive footage) on collected information about Algae biomass in Europe analysed by the JRC (Joint Research Centre).

For more information, please see the website: Knowledge Centre for Bioeconomy