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Blue Economy Strategy Engagement Paper

Introduction Focusing on growth and prosperity Positioning Canada Sustainable and Prosperous Ocean Sectors Big questions

Closed engagement: this engagement ran from February 8 to June 15, 2021.

See the what we heard report for a summary of the feedback received.


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Foreword from the Minister

For centuries, Canada’s oceans have played a key role in the vibrant economic and social fabric of our country. They have shaped and defined coastal communities, fed our families and the rest of the world for generations, connected us to diverse cultures across the globe, and charted paths for exploration and new scientific discoveries.

Canada is a leader on the world stage when it comes to ocean conservation and protection, and will be a key player in the blue economy. The relationship between healthy economies and sustainable oceans is critical. Canada’s ocean economy accounts for $31.7 billion annually in gross domestic product and almost 300,000 jobs in fisheries and aquaculture, energy, shipping, tourism and recreation. As we move towards recovery in a post-COVID-19 world, and focus on how we can build back better, the Government of Canada is developing a comprehensive Blue Economy Strategy that will help guide and support growth and modernization of high-potential ocean sectors and job creation in our Indigenous and coastal communities.

A blue economy is about creating reliable, middle-class jobs while ensuring that we protect and restore the health of our oceans. It supports ocean innovation and allows Canada to be at the forefront of the development of new and ground-breaking technologies, and takes advantage of the latest scientific findings and best practices, while steadily building prosperity and conserving our oceans for future generations. This engagement paper outlines some of the opportunities, challenges, and gaps facing our ocean economy, and includes a series of questions. I invited readers to reflect upon these questions and to provide input into the development of Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy.

On behalf of the federal Government, I thank you for your participation in blue economy strategy engagement opportunities as Canada looks forward to seizing the many opportunities that lie before us and working together to solve common challenges.

The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, M.P., P.C.
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard


Three oceans have shaped Canada’s identity and the livelihoods of countless Canadians. Our ocean-based industries enable international trade, contribute to food security, and help our coastal and Indigenous communities remain resilient and vibrant. Oceans will continue to play a significant role in our economic development and wealth generation. At the same time, oceans will be essential to environmental sustainability and the protection of Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures and ways of life.

The World Bank defines the blue economy as “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health.”

Today, the prosperity of Canada’s ocean economy is being challenged by the global pandemic. The health of the world’s oceans is also under increasing pressure from overexploitation, pollution, and climate change. Growing the ocean economy thus requires a comprehensive approach that combines steadfast commitments to ocean protection alongside viable business growth. This is a sustainable blue economy.

Canada’s vision for a sustainable blue economy supports the growth of ocean sectors through innovation. It provides good jobs and is inclusive, advances reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, respects regional differences and needs, and contributes to a clean and healthy ocean. Supporting the blue economy will be an important part of our recovery from COVID–19 and our collective efforts to “build back better.”

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The Government of Canada intends to develop a strategic framework to guide future actions and investments that will help grow our ocean economy, while advancing our conservation objectives. This strategy aims to leverage opportunities on all three coasts and position Canada as an international ocean leader.

To ensure our blue economy strategy reflects the views of Canadians, we sought your input on potential areas of action.

This engagement paper starts by exploring how a blue economy strategy could better support and advance the economic well-being of coastal and Indigenous communities, including by creating well-paying jobs and fostering greater inclusion in ocean sectors. The second section probes seven ways to position our blue economy for growth and success, including the challenges to overcome. Lastly, we examine each of our ocean sectors in depth, along with a few future-oriented and emerging sectors. All three sections of the paper suggest potential actions that a blue economy strategy could take and invited your responses to questions. There are also some ‘big picture’ questions at the end of the paper.

Your input will ensure that Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy responds to the regional and community-level needs of Canadians and the development of concrete initiatives.

Thank you for your interest and participation.


In the 2020 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada (the Government) articulated its plan for economic transformation post-COVID-19: addressing socio-economic gaps, building a stronger workforce, fighting climate change, and remaining committed to sustainable economic growthFootnote 1. These broad objectives form a resiliency agenda to “build back better.” The development of a blue economy strategy is a key component of this plan as it aims to steer Canada’s ocean-based economy towards a more sustainable future and to “build back bluer.”

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Building Canada’s blue economy requires sustainable business practices that recognize ocean health is directly linked to long-term economic value creation. The blue economy can only be advanced if there are parallel commitments to protect and conserve ocean spaces and minimize the negative effects of human activities on marine environments.

Canada’s blue economy is an important part of regional economies and the broader national economy. Our ocean sectors have the potential to drive sustainable economic growth and support the creation of more jobs in coastal and Indigenous communities while advancing innovation. At the same time, oceans can continue to support our efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change as the largest natural carbon sink on the planet.

Our blue economy consists of traditional ocean-based sectors such as commercial fishing, aquaculture, seafood processing, marine shipping, port activities, shipbuilding, and coastal tourism. It also comprises emerging industries and activities driven by cutting-edge developments in science and technology, such as offshore energy and marine biotechnology. In 2016, Canada’s blue economy contributed 1.6 per cent to our total employment and gross domestic product (GDP), generating 296,180 jobs and $31.7 billion in GDP.

Blue economy total employment and GDP by sector, 2016Footnote 2
Sectors Seafood Offshore oil and gas Transportation Tourism and recreation Manufacturing and construction Public sector


89,929 15,039 65,335 52,476 20,070 53,331

GDP ($ Millions)

8,819 4,871 7,201 3,682 2,045 5,033
Gross domestic product contribution to provincial and territorial economies, 2016Footnote 3
Province/Territory Ocean Sector GDP
($ Millions)
Provincial/Territorial GDP
($ Millions)
Share of Provincial/Territorial GDP (%)
Newfoundland and Labrador 6,434 31,696 20.3%
Prince Edward Island 599 6,348 9.4%
Nova Scotia 4,626 41,492 11.2%
New Brunswick 1,433 34,593 4.1%
Quebec 2,509 397,291 0.6%
British Columbia 8,769 263,978 3.3%
Yukon 106 2,715 3.9%
Northwest Territories 270 4,603 5.9%
Nunavut 142 2,513 5.7%
Maritime Regions 24,889 785,229 3.2%
Canada 31,650 2,023,824 1.6%

Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada based on Statistics Canada 2015 Input-Output multipliers and industry gross output, and on a customized Statistics Canada Input-Output model run for three of the underlying industries

Employment contribution to provincial and territorial economies, 2016
Province/territory Ocean-based employment
(# of jobs)
Provincial/territorial employment
(# of jobs)
Share of provincial/territorial employment (%)
Newfoundland and Labrador 28,001 232,600


Prince Edward Island 7,077 71,500 9.9%
Nova Scotia 49,998 446,200 11.2%
New Brunswick 19,427 351,500 5.5%
Quebec 28,768 4,133,100 0.7%
British Columbia 93,429 2,379,500 3.9%
Yukon 952 20,200 4.7%
Northwest Territories 1,543 22,500 6.9%
Nunavut 694 13,500 5.1%
Maritime Regions 229,888 7,670,600 3.0%
Canada 296,180 18,079,900 1.6%

Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada based on Statistics Canada 2015 Input-Output multipliers and industry gross output, and on a customized Statistics Canada Input-Output model run for three of the underlying industries

The ocean sectors concentrated in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, and in British Columbia, are significant contributors to these regional economies. For instance, marine shipping, offshore oil and gas, fish and seafood processing, commercial fishing, Indigenous fisheries and traditional livelihoods, shipbuilding, and aquaculture are some of the most important sectors within Atlantic Canada and Quebec. The ocean technology sector in Atlantic Canada is also driving innovation across ocean sectors with its industrial, technical, and scientific diversity.

In British Columbia, primary ocean sectors include marine shipping, recreation and tourism, aquaculture, commercial fishing, Indigenous fisheries and traditional livelihoods, and fish and seafood production, as well as a growing ocean technology sector. Farmed salmon is particularly important as the top seafood and agri-food export in the province. The Pacific Ocean also offers direct trade links to Asia and the broader Pacific Rim, which present a key opportunity for Canada to expand its exports and global market access.

Canada’s Arctic region is another key component of the blue economy. Activities in our ocean space in the Arctic Ocean are expanding as a result of land-based natural resource exploration, Indigenous fisheries and traditional livelihoods, increased access for shipping vessels, and unique tourism experiences. Combined with reduced ice coverage in Arctic waters, these activities could lead to new opportunities if key challenges are addressed.

The economic activity driven by Canada’s ocean-based sectors support strong value chains along all three coasts as well as inland. Indeed, the blue economy is connected to economic activities stemming from other waterways and industries, including the Great Lakes, Hudson’s Bay, and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Canada is home to excellent post-secondary and government institutions that are conducting world-leading oceans-related science and research. From the Ocean Frontier Institute in Atlantic Canada to the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries in British Columbia, Canadians continue to benefit from scientific discoveries and research developments that support our ocean conservation efforts. This includes ocean data collection and management, and other groundbreaking ocean technologies, that are being developed by Ocean Networks Canada alongside industry.

The fourth industrial revolution is also driving Canada’s ocean sectors to make structural changes. Digitalization, artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, ocean sensing, big data, and better data acquisition and analysis are all impacting how ocean resources are used. These technologies may also offer solutions to some of the environmental challenges we face today as we build our green economy. One thing is certain—technology modernization and business innovation will continue to drive the future growth of our ocean sectors and help us integrate economic and environmental goals in a mutually supportive way.

Canada’s ocean sectors have grown steadily over a number of years, providing good jobs and business opportunities for Canadians on all three coasts. Prior to the global pandemic, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated that the total value-added of the global ocean economy could increase to $4 trillion by 2030, effectively doubling 2010 levels. Canada remains well-positioned to benefit from this global growth trajectory. To do so, our efforts must remain anchored in environmental and business practices that support sustainability, protect ocean resources, and improve overall ocean health.

To ensure Canadians benefit from a sustainable blue economy, the Government has already launched initiatives to support ocean-based sectors while conserving and protecting oceans and coastal areas. Investments in industries include the Ocean Supercluster, three regional fisheries funds administered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Transport Canada Innovation Center, and the Natural Resources Canada Energy Innovation Program. Investments in ocean protection and conservation include the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan and activities to ensure that Canada met its 10% international marine conservation target in 2020.

These and other investments were in place before the global pandemic changed the world’s economy. When COVID–19 began to impact Canada, the Government moved quickly to launch new programs to help companies adapt to new health and security realities, continue operating, and build greater resiliency. This includes direct support to Canada’s fish and seafood sector of up to $469.4 million through the Fish Harvesters’ Benefit and Grant Program and $62.5 million through the Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund. It also includes $320 million towards an agreement with the provincial government to support Canadians with offshore energy jobs and up to $2 billion through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund to help businesses and communities cope with the impacts of the pandemic—25% of which is earmarked for the tourism sector.

Going forward, dedicated efforts to support the blue economy will be central to Canada’s economic recovery. The 2020 Speech from the Throne reiterated the federal commitment to develop a blue economy strategy as follows:

…the Government will look at continuing to grow Canada’s ocean economy to create opportunities for fishers and coastal communities, while advancing reconciliation and conservation objectives. Investing in the Blue Economy will help Canada prosper.

To achieve this commitment, we are engaging and collaborating with the provinces and territories, Indigenous groups, businesses and other stakeholders, and the public. This includes involving our partners, industry, and all Canadians in identifying practical solutions to support economic recovery, long-term prosperity, and ocean health. It also means taking a coast-to-coast-to-coast approach that considers regional differences, preferences and challenges, while respecting other jurisdictions.

Future activities in our ocean spaces will reflect Canada’s international commitments to sustainable development and align with recommendations developed by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Blue Economy, of which our Prime Minister is a member. This includes putting in place sustainable ocean plans by 2025 and sustainably managing 100% of ocean areas under national jurisdiction.

Canada’s commitment to a healthy and prosperous ocean economy is also reflected in our proposed strengthened climate plan, A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy, which recognizes that “climate change is the biggest long-term threat of our generation, but it is also the greatest economic opportunityFootnote 4. By accelerating action to fight climate change while building a more sustainable and resilient blue economy, we can incite innovation, create new jobs and opportunities for Canadians, and protect our oceans into the future. This will require the development of our blue economy strategy to foster the growth of our marine clean technology sector, help Canada’s ocean companies decarbonize faster, improve the global competitiveness of clean ocean industries, and build Canada’s clean industrial advantage.

Today, Canada is in an unparalleled position to develop our significant ocean assets and strengths in ways that will maximize the opportunities that a sustainable ocean economy has to offer. This will require approaches that facilitate sustained growth while also protecting the health of our ocean resources.

In short, the Blue Economy Strategy will set Canada on a course to achieve greater resilience through business models and innovations that integrate ocean health outcomes with economic prosperity. This will benefit those who make a living from the ocean and all Canadians. It will also position Canada as a global leader in ocean sustainability.

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