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Blue economy strategy engagement paper

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Fisheries and Oceans Canada invites all Canadians to comment on the Blue Economy Strategy as described in this publication. Submissions may be sent to or refer to the mailing address in the How to reach us section.

Do not provide any personal information or history.

Information received throughout this consultation process is subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. Should you express an intention that your submission, or any portions thereof, be considered confidential, we will make all reasonable efforts to protect this information.

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Foreword from the Minister

Canada is an ocean nation. Our oceans are tightly woven into the economic, social, and cultural fabric of this country. They have been a source of food, jobs, transportation, and recreation for generations. They are the lifeforce of our coastal communities and our connection to diverse cultures across the globe. For centuries, they have charted paths for exploration and new scientific discoveries. Today, our oceans present countless new opportunities, and we want to help Canadians harness them.  

Canada is a leader on the world stage when it comes to ocean conservation and protection, and the same should be true of the global blue economy. Thriving ocean economies depend on sustainable, healthy oceans . Canada’s ocean economy accounts for $31.7 billion annually in gross domestic product and almost 300,000 jobs in fisheries, aquaculture, energy, shipping, tourism and recreation. As we look ahead to the post-pandemic world, we want to consciously create more jobs and opportunities in our coastal and Indigenous communities. The Government of Canada is developing a Blue Economy Strategy to grow and modernize our ocean sectors in a sustainable way. Together, we are building a plan to get more Canadians working on and in the water.

A blue economy is one that creates meaningful middle-class jobs while prioritizing the health of our oceans. It supports innovation and pushes Canada to the forefront of the development of new and ground-breaking technologies. It harnesses 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. It includes a series of questions that I invite readers to reflect upon as you provide input into the development of Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy.

On behalf of the federal Government, I thank you for your participation and engagement 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


Our three oceans have shaped Canada’s identity and the livelihoods of countless Canadians. They will continue to be a driving force in our economic development and revenue. But they are not a resource. Our oceans are an essential part of our natural environment and are integral to many 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, 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 therefore requires a comprehensive approach and steadfast commitments to ocean protection as well as production and prosperity. This is a sustainable blue economy.

Canada’s vision for a sustainable blue economy will see the growth of ocean sectors through innovation. It will provide good jobs and be inclusive, advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, respect regional differences and needs, and contribute to a clean and healthy ocean. A strong blue economy will also be an important part of our recovery from COVID-19 and our collective effort to build back better.

The Government of Canada will 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 harness opportunities on all three coasts and position Canada as a leader in the global blue economy.

To ensure our blue economy strategy reflects the needs of Canadians, we are seeking your input on priority areas of action.

This engagement paper starts by exploring how a strategy could best support and advance the economic well-being of coastal and Indigenous communities, including by creating well-paying jobs and making our ocean sectors more inclusive. The second section probes seven ways to position our blue economy for growth and success, including 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 invite your responses to questions. At the end, we pose some ‘big picture’ questions we welcome you to consider as we envision a stronger, more sustainable future.

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. Submissions may be sent by June 15, 2021 via email to: or by standard mail (refer to How to reach us at the end of this document).

Thank you for your interest and participation.


In the 2020 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada 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. This is how we will steer Canada’s ocean-based economy towards a more sustainable future and “build back bluer.”

Growing Canada’s blue economy requires sustainable business practices that recognize ocean health is directly linked to long-term economic value creation. Long-term prosperity can only be achieved through strong, consistent efforts to protect and conserve ocean spaces and minimize the impacts of human activities on marine environments. In fact, as the largest natural carbon sink on the planet, our oceans can support Canada in its efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

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.

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 includes 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% 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, Quebec, and British Columbia are essential 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 an increasingly important part of the blue economy. Activities in our 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. These sectors could lead to new opportunities for Indigenous and northern communities.

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.

Modernization and digitalization are also driving Canada’s ocean sectors to make structural changes. Artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, ocean sensing, big data, and better data acquisition and analysis are all impacting how ocean resources are used. These technologies can also offer solutions to some of the most pressing environmental challenges we face today. One thing is certain—technology modernization and business innovation are essential to building a strong blue economy. They will 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 yearsand this is expected to continue. 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 is very well-positioned to benefit from this global growth trajectory. To remain so, our strategy must be 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 —the single largest investment ever in Canada’s oceans—and strong actions 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 individuals and 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 Harvester Benefit and Grant Program and $62.5 million through the Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund. It also includes $320 million towards an agreement with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador 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 implementing sustainable ocean plans and sustainably managing 100% of ocean areas under national jurisdiction by 2025.

Canada’s commitment to a healthy and prosperous ocean economy is also reinforced in our strengthened climate plan, A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy. It 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 will create new jobs and opportunities for Canadians, incentivize innovation, and protect our oceans for the long-term. Our blue economy strategy must help foster the growth of our marine clean technology sector, help Canada’s ocean companies reduce carbon emissions faster, improve the global competitiveness of clean ocean industries, and build Canada’s clean industrial advantage.

Canada is in an unparalleled position to harness our ocean assets and strengths in ways that will maximize all the opportunities a sustainable ocean economy has to offer. This will require a clear vision and a strategy to guide us toward it. The Blue Economy Strategy will set Canada on a course to achieve greater resilience through new business models and innovations that drive ocean health with economic prosperity at once, together. This is how we will get more Canadians working on an in the water. This is how we will position Canada as a leader in the global, sustainable, blue economy.

Focusing Canada’s blue economy on growth and prosperity for all

Canada’s blue economy has real potential to generate new opportunities for sustainable growth and prosperity. We also have an opportunity to “build back better” as our ocean industries work to recover from the COVID–19 pandemic. This required a blue economy strategy that supports and advances the economic well-being of as many Canadians as possible; especially, Indigenous peoples and other underrepresented groups.

This part of the engagement paper focuses on three key ways that our blue economy strategy can foster more prosperity and inclusion in Canada's ocean sectors:

Each section highlights major challenges, suggests ways that a blue economy strategy could help address these challenges, and poses questions for you to consider answering. Your feedback and ideas will help guide the development of this Strategy.

Advancing the participation of indigenous peoples

In recent years, the Government of Canada has worked to renew and rebuild its relationship with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. It has also undertaken work to advance reconciliation and make much-needed investments to close the socio-economic gaps that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples face. Indigenous peoples understand the needs of their communities best and, therefore, Government has been working closely with Indigenous communities to advance their self-government , their self-determination, and their ongoing work of nation rebuilding. To that end, the Government recently proposed new legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The legislation is a road map to advance lasting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and the steps that must be taken to respect, recognize, and protect their human rights and to address the wrongs of the past.

Oceans, fisheries, aquatic ecosystems, and marine waterways are integral to Indigenous rights, cultures, ways of life, and heritages. Marine resources and ecosystems also hold significant social, ceremonial, and economic importance to Indigenous peoples across Canada.

The Government is working to increase the participation of Indigenous peoples in the blue economy through non-treaty agreements and other program agreements. We are also providing direct support through dedicated commercial fisheries programs that have enabled Indigenous communities to increase the potential of their commercial fishing enterprises and strengthen community economic self-sufficiency. At the same time, the Government and Indigenous communities are collaborating to help restore coastal habitats, protect marine environments, and improve marine safety. This includes through scientific and technical watershed-based aquatic resource and oceans management departments that receive direct support from the Government.

Indigenous communities are valued partners in the growth of Canada’s blue economy and our efforts to protect and conserve ocean spaces.Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy has the potential to increase and diversify ocean-related economic opportunities for coastal Indigenous communities that are aligned with their values, priorities and aspirations. The co-development of a blue economy strategy is therefore an important opportunity to further reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples.

As the economy reopens from the global pandemic, a blue economy strategy could further initiatives that are fostering job creation and sustainable economic opportunities along with a new conservation economy in Indigenous communities. This includes initiatives to build capacity and to facilitate ownership and market entry to help increase the participation of Indigenous peoples and communities in ocean sectors.


A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

Developing the necessary labour force and skills

The blue economy provides rewarding jobs and career opportunities for many Canadians. In 2016, employment in Canada’s ocean sectors accounted for just under 300,000 jobs (1.6% of our national employment total) and that number is poised to grow.

Diversity in Canada’s blue economy depends on a range of skills and labour force talent. Traditional sectors, such as fishing and seafood processing, may rely more on skills such as machine operation and physical abilities, while knowledge-intensive sectors may require more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related competencies. As ocean sectors evolve, the type and mix of skills will change to match trends, such as increased digitalization and automation, the emergence of newer and more knowledge-intensive sectors (e.g. marine renewables), and a growing focus on sustainability.

The Government is already working with the private sector to ensure that our blue economy sectors have access to a well-educated and skilled labour force. The National Shipbuilding Strategy Value Proposition, for example, requires Canada’s shipyards to invest in the domestic marine industry, which may be directed to human resource development. This could enable the sector to have access to a pool of qualified personnel.

Canada’s blue economy will continue to need skilled and talented workers to grow and realize its full potential. Many ocean sector companies already struggle to recruit and retain skilled employees. The approach to supply labour and provide skills development to Canadians and underrepresented people in the blue economy will be an essential component to grow a prosperous and competitive blue economy in Canada.


A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

Identifying barriers to inclusive growth

Ocean resources have vast potential to unlock economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve lives and livelihoods; particularly, for women, youth, Indigenous peoples, visible minorities, and persons with disabilities. However, access to ocean resources and the distribution of its benefits are often inequitable. The COVID–19 pandemic has magnified inequities among gender, race, Indigeneity, physical ability, geographic location, rurality, ability, age, and socio-economic status. Any focus on economic growth must include a conscious effort to make our growing sectors more accessible to vulnerable groups.

Addressing inequities in ocean industries is an essential part of building a resilient and sustainable blue economy. An intersectional Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) lens will be applied to the development of initiatives that fall under the blue economy strategy in order to anticipate potential impacts on diverse groups of Canadians. By identifying issues early, the blue economy strategy will be positioned to help mitigate inequalities and promote equity in the ocean sector based on the issues brought forward.

There are many examples of Government and industry action on inclusive growth. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, for instance, has partnered with UGent and the Flanders Blue Ocean Cluster to immerse selected female graduate students in Atlantic Canada in leading edge ocean economy innovations. Oceans Network Canada has partnered with many coastal indigenous communities in British Columbia to initiate community-based monitoring, school programs, youth training, and engagement so that each community can advance its ocean and marine environment programs. More recently, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster supported the launch of the Blue Future Pathways project to connect youth across Canada with education and employment opportunities, and to support participants in developing a successful career in the blue economy.

Furthering the work of existing blue economy initiatives could help improve livelihood of people in underrepresented groups and enable ocean sectors to grow. Over the longer term, Canada’s blue economy must be more resilient and responsive to future economic uncertainties and impacts; especially, those that affect the most vulnerable groups who rely on Canada’s oceans and their benefits.


A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

Positioning Canada’s blue economy for growth and success

Canada’s blue economy is complex. It is made up of different sectors and competing interests, all of which are impacted by shifting market dynamics. The relationship between ocean sectors, various levels of government, evolving market access requirements, and international agreements and commitments adds further complexity.

To position Canada’s ocean sectors for growth and success, a number of cross-cutting issues must be considered:

This underscores Canada’s need for a single, comprehensive strategy to guide our investments and policies toward a single, clear goal of a strong, sustainable blue economy.

This part of the engagement paper examines these seven issues in detail, identifying relevant challenges and suggesting potential ways that a blue economy strategy could be used to address these challenges. We encourage you to consider the discussion questions posed at the end of each section and provide your feedback to help guide the development of this Strategy.

Natural environment: enhancing environmental sustainability of the ocean and climate change resilience of coastal areas

Canada’s blue economy and its future growth depend on the sustainable use and management of our ocean resources. A healthy ocean generates economic and social benefits. At the same time, it performs vital functions such as carbon sequestration and climate regulation.

The health of the world’s oceans is under pressure as a result of overexploitation, pollution, and climate change. The United Nations proclaimed 2021-2030 as a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development to support global efforts to reverse the decline in ocean health and create improved conditions for sustainable development in the ocean.

Climate change, in particular, significantly impacts the global ocean economy and the resilience of coastal areas worldwide. Canada’s blue economy and Indigenous and non-Indigenous coastal communities are not immune to these impacts. Capture fisheries, aquaculture, and coastal tourism are also vulnerable.

The Government has taken important steps to keep Canada’s oceans healthy and to help ocean industries adapt to the impacts of climate change. The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, the modernized Fisheries Act, new marine protected areas, and our commitment to protect 25% of our oceans by 2025 while working towards 30% by 2030, are a few such examples. The Government is also working closely with Indigenous communities on all three coasts to support coastal habitat restoration, protect marine environments, and improve marine safety. Additional steps, such as marine spatial planning activities will also help us balance human activities and conservation efforts in our ocean spaces.

In addition, the Government has been developing ocean accounts to help us better understand the total value that oceans bring to our society. Ocean accounts will contain ocean-related environmental, social, and economic data in a comprehensive way so we can determine whether investments in our oceans are building ocean wealth for future generations.

These domestic actions are helping Canada meet its international commitments to ocean health, including the Charlevoix blueprint for healthy oceans, seas and resilient coastal communities, the Ocean Plastics Charter, and Sustainable Development Goals. We are also demonstrating leadership regarding the sustainable use of marine resources, including in regional fisheries management organizations discussions on the importance of sustainable high seas fishing.


A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

Innovation: reducing barriers to innovation and advancing business modernization

Ocean innovation is an important driver of economic growth and supports numerous well-paying jobs across Canada. Recent scientific discoveries and the development of advanced technologies are increasing efficiencies and productivity across ocean sectors. At the same time, innovations are changing the business models of ocean industries to foster sustainable use of resources.

Science and technology innovations play a key role in growing our blue economy. Well-aligned and strategic private and public investments in innovation can help Canada become a global leader in ocean research and technology development. Supporting a business environment that enables ocean start-ups to successfully develop, test, and commercialize their innovations, can also advance our blue economy growth and sustainability objectives.

The Government has launched several programs to support ocean innovation in recent years. This includes Canada's fisheries funds, which help ocean companies modernize their operations to be more competitive and productive. We also support the work of the Ocean Supercluster and other ocean innovation hubs across Canada.

The Government will continue to seek ways to support ocean innovation; especially, tools and advancements that may be used across multiple ocean industries or may extend commercial potential and reach. This includes by strengthening the link between academia, industry players from start-ups to small- and medium-sized enterprises, and Indigenous partners with ‘anchor’ companies, so there is a better understanding of industry needs and technologies.


A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

Financing: de-risking investments and improving access to private sector financing

Blue financing refers to private and public investments in projects that help restore and protect the ocean environment, while also supporting sustainable economic activities in the ocean. Its intent is to finance (or support by improving insurance availability) ocean-based projects that are grounded in sustainability and growth.

Blue financing can guide targeted government investments in ocean sectors. It can also provide certainty and clarity to the financial industry to increase the level of investments in blue economy opportunities.

Blue financing investments could support a wide range of ocean projects and initiatives in Canada, such as sustainable aquaculture and regenerative ocean farming, marine biotechnology, alternative propulsion systems, eco-tourism, de-carbonization of marine shipping, ocean ecosystem restoration, and carbon sequestration (e.g. blue carbon). This would contribute to the development of our sustainable blue economy, and help us fulfill international commitments, such as to the United Nations “Life Below Water” Sustainable Development Goal.

De-risking investments and attracting additional private sector capital under a blue financing model may serve to advance ocean-related activities. However, adoption of a transparent regulatory and reporting framework for financial institutions and ocean-based businesses to guide and facilitate future private sector investments would first be required.


A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

Science and data: advancing ocean observation and data collection and supporting world-leading scientific research

Data collected through sustained ocean observations, measurements, and forecasts enable the majority of our ocean economic activities to occur. Data and other collected information also help us understand the impacts of economic practices. Insights offered by data inform legislation to regulate ocean use and protect the ocean environment. It also leads to more efficient and safer ocean-based operations.

Canada has become a leader in ocean observation with extensive research strengths both in government and in university programs. For example, the Canadian Integrated Ocean Observing System, SmartAtlantic, Ocean Networks Canada, and the RADARSAT Constellation Mission collect, analyze, and manage ocean data to support evidence-based decision-making on ocean management, disaster mitigation, fisheries resources, and environmental protection. They also provide critical data to industry for safer and more efficient operations.

Additionally, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Canadian Healthy Oceans Network is exploring the ecosystem characteristics that define the capacity of our oceans to recover or respond to management strategies, such as conservation networks, spatial closures, and restoration. This research also aims to understand and quantify how key stressors, including cumulative impacts in high-use environments, alter marine biodiversity and ecosystem functions.

There is still room for growth and development in ocean observation, data collection, and ocean modelling. With Canada’s current expertise, for example, there is an opportunity to globally lead the development of new technologies, including space-based technologies, for advanced tracking and monitoring of ocean spaces. We could also provide clarity, certainty, and facilitate discussion around jurisdiction, administrative authority, and natural resources. This includes by mapping and interpreting to modern standards the more than 90% of Canada’s seabed and subsurface to fill the gaps in knowledge of resource potential and risks to development.


A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

Market access: improving access to foreign markets and attracting new foreign direct investments

Trade and investment are key drivers of Canada’s economy. Current and future growth and prosperity in the blue economy will depend on open world markets and stable, predictable, and transparent trading and investment environments.

The Government works multilaterally and bilaterally with numerous countries to promote and defend Canadian interests, including by promoting trade and ensuring market access for our goods and services. Provinces and territories also support businesses through their role in market and branding development and foreign direct investment attraction.

Canada uses a number of programs and tools to help businesses grow and export their goods and services, including foreign investor services. Recent initiatives and investments have built on the success of these programs and tools to facilitate a stronger rate of export growth and attract more foreign direct investments. This includes supports to help Canadian companies diversify their exports to take advantage of trade agreements, such as the Canada–European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

A blue economy strategy would provide a backdrop on which the Government could work to boost ocean sector export growth and investment attraction, including investments in ‘green’ technologies and practices. Pre-pandemic, Canada’s overall performance in attracting foreign direct investment was very strong and we have experienced lower declines of this investment at 32% compared to global total of 49%.

Containment measures to restrict the spread of COVID–19 have affected every aspect of international trade. At the end of September 2020, year-to-date imports and exports were lower by 13 and 14%, respectively, compared to the same period in 2019Footnote 5. Escalated airfreight transportation rates and capacity shortages are encouraging some shippers to pursue sea freight or to split supply chain shipments between ocean and air palletsFootnote 6. This situation also indicates that investments in marine transport may be essential to support strong trade routes.

As the economy recovers from COVID–19, it will be important for Canada to attract foreign direct investments, revitalize traditional markets, seek new markets, and expand domestic market presence.


A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

Business environment: enhancing the long-term resilience and competitiveness of businesses

Business resilience and competitiveness are essential to enable a strong economy that creates good-paying jobs across the country. The Government can support our ocean companies by developing a business environment that fosters sustainable business operations, enhances business resilience, and drives competitiveness. We are already investing in key infrastructure, such as high-speed Internet in coastal and rural areas, and helping businesses modernize their operations by adopting advanced technologies.

The pandemic has tested the resilience of our ocean industries. Some companies have shown great adaptability in overcoming challenges, including by pivoting their operations to meet demand for new products and services. Still, the pandemic has highlighted areas where Canada needs to enhance its resilience and competiveness. This includes in areas, such as infrastructure (e.g. ports and small craft harbours), and improved access to lending and equity capital.

The long-term resilience and competitiveness of our ocean companies will also be influenced by trends that affect the world-wide economy. A growing global population, potential disruption in global supply chains, innovation, climate change, and an emphasis on environmental sustainability are likely to have a profound impact on future business models and global markets.


A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

Regulatory environment: establishing robust and agile frameworks to support sustainable ocean economic growth

Canada’s ocean companies need a competitive and predictable operating environment to be able to thrive, innovate, and grow. Regulatory systems must be agile, transparent, and responsive to the needs of business and the natural environment. Such frameworks must also be adaptable to technological developments.

Today’s ocean industries are subject to ocean management planning and a number of industry-specific regulatory frameworks. These are intended to enable development, innovation, and long-term investor confidence, while ensuring environmental protection. For example, Canada modernized its Fisheries Act to provide fishers with more clarity about their operating environment while enhancing fish and fish habitat ecosystem protections. We are also engaging Canadians on the development of a new Aquaculture Act to provide industry greater operating clarity, enhance environmental protections, and help advance sustainable growth.

Strategic planning within our ocean spaces can work hand-in-hand with regulatory frameworks to bolster investments in Canada’s ocean sectors. Marine spatial planning, for example, is an internationally recognized tool to support decision-making for sustainable use. Specifically, marine spatial planning brings together relevant decision-making authorities to collaboratively design an integrated plan that will guide the use and management of marine spaces in order to achieve a full range of ecological, economic, and social objectives.

Marine spatial plans are not intended to replace existing industry-specific regulatory frameworks. Rather, they identify areas for conservation and zones suitable for industrial activities, including at varying times. Marine spatial plans, and the governance mechanisms and data used to support their development, can also be used to inform and align decisions related to future major projects in these areas.

Canada’s marine spatial planning efforts in the Pacific North Coast, Bay of Fundy–Scotian Shelf, Newfoundland–Labrador Shelves, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence are being designed with these goals in mind.


A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

Advancing sustainable and prosperous ocean sectors in Canada

The ocean sectors operating in Canada today provide products and services ranging from food and transportation to energy and health. These sectors include:

Together, these sectors generate value important to local economies, coastal regions, and the Canadian economy more broadly.

The following sections describe how each of these sectors operates and how they benefit Canadians. Each section also suggests ways that a blue economy strategy could help enable, support, and advance sustainable growth. As in previous sections, we have posed a number of questions to get your ideas and feedback, which will help guide the development of this Strategy.

Ocean-based energy

Canada’s extensive coastal waters and ocean spaces offer great opportunities for the development of ocean-based energy. From offshore oil and gas and offshore wind to tidal and hydro energy and the use of clean hydrogen, there is significant potential in our oceans to harness energy to heat homes, drive vehicles, and run businesses. However, future development of ocean-based energy projects must consider the impact that they may have on marine species and habitats, the rights of Indigenous peoples, and the surrounding environment to avoid undermining other economic and environmental objectives and reconciliation.

Canada has benefitted from the growth in the offshore oil and gas sector in recent decades. This sector has fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the world average and can play an important role in Canada’s transition to greener energy. Offshore oil and gas projects under the Canada–Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Accord have been the main driver of this sector. In 2016, the industry contributed approximately $4.9 billion in GDP and just over 15,000 well-paying jobs when spin-off effects are taken into account. Recently modernized federal regulations will allow more efficient approval of exploratory offshore drilling in the province, providing further support to the sector.

Offshore oil and gas companies invest heavily in innovation that may benefit other ocean sectors, such as greater safety in marine environments. As part of the transition to renewable energy sources, these innovations may also enable the sustainable growth of other ocean sectors, such as offshore wind energy and aquaculture.

The Government also helps other ocean-based energy industries succeed. For example, it recently announced funding to support four Nova Scotia tidal projects that will bring clean energy technologies to the Atlantic region and help Canada build a cleaner future.

Taking full advantage of oceans-based energy opportunities will require collaboration from all levels of government, as well as significant private sector investments, to encourage investor funding, demonstrate projects, and enable commercialization. By working together, Canada will be well-positioned to advance cutting-edge technology to enable a resilient ocean-based energy sector in a manner that will help us advance to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

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Discussion questions

Marine transport, ports, and shipbuilding

Marine transport, ports, and shipbuilding are sectors of significant importance to Canada’s status as a trading nation and its economic potential. While continued growth of the world’s population will increase demand for the services provided by these sectors, the rate of growth will be largely determined by how the global economic recovery shapes trade and global shipping routes.

To seize long-term growth opportunities within this reality, industries understand the importance of thinking and acting strategically. They know that adopting automation and digitalization is central to remaining globally competitive and resilient, while also helping them reduce the carbon emissions of their business operations.

Marine transport is a significant driver of Canada’s blue economy, carrying $246.5 billion worth of international trade in 2019, which represents 20.6% of Canada’s total international trade. Marine transport could also start playing an increasingly important role in the Arctic Ocean. This would require robust environmental oversight and more capacity within governments, industries, and Indigenous and coastal communities to ensure that fragile ecosystems remain protected.

The Government has been increasing its capacity in the Arctic region in recent years. Through the Oceans Protection Plan, for example, the Canadian Coast Guard extended its icebreaking season in the Arctic to ensure safe marine shipping and promote economic growth. The Canadian Coast Guard is also an active participant in the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, which is intended to foster safe, secure, and environmentally responsible maritime activity in the Arctic.

The marine transport sector generated 25,431 jobs in 2019, many of which are located in coastal regions and port communities across Canada. This number could grow as new shipping lanes are established and Arctic waters become more navigable. The growth of export-oriented sectors and land-based natural resources, such as forestry and petroleum production, may also increase traffic in the region.

At the same time, modern surveys, improved navigational services along key shipping routes, and new scientific discoveries and technologies could reduce the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions and its overall impact on ocean ecosystems.

A blue economy strategy could

Ports and harbours are essential enablers of marine transport and regional development, which allows Canadian businesses to fully participate in a globally integrated economy. Ports and harbours also play an integral role in supporting local and regional economic development and, increasingly, the testing and piloting of new ocean technologies and collecting data.

Ports, harbours, and associated construction activities provide a significant number of jobs in coastal communities. In 2016, there were more than 5,000 construction jobs at Canada’s ports and harbours.

In addition to ports in major coastal and inland cities, Canada has many smaller harbours, including over a thousand small craft harbours. Both community-managed harbours and those operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada provide a hub for the economic activities in many remote and isolated Indigenous and non-Indigenous coastal communities.

A blue economy strategy could

Shipbuilding in Canada not only consists of building and maintaining vessels to meet our unique domestic needs, it provides important support to other ocean industries and our network of coastal and Indigenous communities across the country.

Canada has a number of shipbuilding policies and support measures to ensure safety, sovereignty, and economic sustainability. Our longstanding “Buy in Canada” policy, for example, requires the federal government to procure, repair, and refit vessels in Canada. We also exclude shipbuilding and repair from our free trade agreements to support and protect this important ocean sector.

In 2010, Canada launched the National Shipbuilding Strategy to renew our federal fleets and establish a sustainable industrial base on which to revitalize the sector. Through this initiative, partner shipyards are contractually required to make value proposition investments to benefit ocean industries in the areas of human resources development, industrial development, and technology. These investments are entirely directed by the shipyards at no cost to Canada and they amount to 0.5% of the value of their large vessel contracts. Moreover, through the application of the Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy, contractors continue to build Canada’s capacity in the marine industry in the areas of supplier development, innovation, human resources development, and exports.

Since the National Shipbuilding Strategy was introduced, it is estimated that shipbuilding contracts issued have contributed over $17.04 billion ($1.55 billion annually) to our GDP and annually supported more than 15,500 jobs. And, as the strategy matures, its economic benefits to Canada will continue to grow.

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Discussion questions


Aquaculture has been identified within Canada and internationally as a key agri-food sector that supports the world’s growing demand for animal protein. The sector contributes to food security and human health and it does so in a low-carbon production manner.

Aquaculture in Canada occurs in all provinces and territories, employing thousands of Canadians in coastal and Indigenous communities. In 2019, the sector generated 4,100 direct jobs and produced over 190,000 tonnes of product, which directly contributed over $300 million to our GDP. The industry has significant year-round employment growth potential in Canada, making it particularly well suited to revitalizing remote, rural and coastal communities, including Indigenous communities. The interest of Indigenous peoples in commercial aquaculture production also continues to grow from coast to coast to coast.

On August 17, 2020, the Government started engaging Canadians in a proposed federal Aquaculture Act to provide greater regulatory clarity for the industry and to foster national consistency, while respecting existing jurisdictions and regional differences. The Government has also been working with the Province of British Columbia and Indigenous communities in this region to create a responsible plan to transition open net-pen farming in coastal waters. This plan is being informed by consultations and engagements with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners, along with stakeholders, to ensure that it is environmentally responsible, economically feasible, and accounts for social considerations.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has highlighted the need for aquaculture to address the increased global demand for seafood. This will drive future sector growth, providing Canada with a unique opportunity to promote its resources, skills, and knowledge, and to be positioned as a global leader in sustainable, high-quality aquaculture production.

In Atlantic Canada, salmon aquaculture activities are expected to continue to expand over the next several years. The region’s globally recognized shellfish industry also remains strong with growth opportunities for the development of the local value chain.

Technology in aquaculture, such as automation, digitalization, and traceability, continues to evolve and is a key driver of sustainable development in the sector. There are also supply chain opportunities in upstream industries, such as boat and cage construction, transportation, genetics and pharmaceuticals, sensors, and unmanned operations.

Future growth and innovation in aquaculture will be shaped by new technologies, diversification of species, and enhanced environmental protections. This includes protections developed as a result of engagements with provinces and territories, Indigenous groups and other partners, as well as stakeholders. The sector will also need to work in collaboration with regulators and partners to address specific challenges, including cumbersome regulatory processes and uncoordinated federal and provincial requirements, the lack of specialized and highly skilled workers, and the need to build public trust and understanding of the industry.

A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

Commercial fisheries

Commercial fishing is incredibly important to the local economies of Canada’s coastal regions and the well-being of Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Whether it be large- or small-scale operations, commercial fishing is often the single largest source of local jobs in these regions.

In 2016, the commercial fishing sector generated approximately $3 billion in GDP and provided over 26,000 jobs across Canada when its spin-off effects are taken into account. The total landed value of the wild capture fishery also increased by 123% between 2009 and 2017. This growth has been driven by consumer demand for high-value species in both Atlantic and Pacific fisheries (e.g. lobster, crab, other shellfish, and groundfish) and higher market prices.

Canada’s commercial fisheries sector is highly export-oriented, producing our largest single food commodity export by value and equivalent to about 80% of domestic production volume. Commercial fisheries and aquaculture operations also support fish and seafood processing, a key part of the value chain and another significant employer in Indigenous and other coastal communities. An estimated 20,400 individuals are directly employed in fish and seafood processing, with an additional 32,167 indirect and induced jobs stemming from the industry.

The long-term sustainability and success of the commercial fishing sector is directly linked to the health of fish stocks. Growing pressure on fish stocks and environmental impacts, such as climate change, pose current and future challenges for fisheries management. Moving forward, helping Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers to continue adopting sustainable practices and adapting to changes in fish stock health will be an important role for governments. Investing in science will also strengthen our ability to conserve, protect, and eventually rebuild fish stocks and ecosystems to ensure continued economic development and sustainability.

The development of innovative approaches and technologies to help reduce the impacts of commercial fishing on the environment and fish stock health is another way to ensure continued sustainability and increased operational efficiencies. For example, ocean innovation sectors could work with commercial fishers to develop and adopt new sustainable gear technologies (e.g. rope-less traps) to help prevent gear loss, address ghost gear, and reduce marine mammal interactions. Developing domestic seafood traceability capacity for Canadian fish and seafood products would not only increase the value and marketability of our sustainable commercial fishery and aquaculture operations, it would also help our domestic industry meet international market access requirements.

The COVID–19 pandemic disrupted fish and seafood markets both in Canada and globally. Reduced demand, low market prices, port closures, inability to access cold storage facilities, and severely limited shipping and air freight services significantly reduced the capacity at which our industry operated for the first part of the fishing season. While production has subsequently resumed to near-normal levels, prices remain soft, and early volume losses have not been recouped. Government support has been essential to help the sector start to recover and the right mix of federal programming must be in place to support long-term resiliency and sustainability.

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Discussion questions

Coastal and marine tourism

Oceans feature prominently in Canada’s tourism sector. The cruise industry, boating tours, recreational fishing, and diving all take place in ocean spaces. On-shore tourism in small coastal communities, and at historical sites and other notable cultural destinations, also depend on the ocean to prosper. Moreover, the ocean is an important element of local tourism brands across the east and west coasts, and the Indigenous tourism industry across Canada.   

Coastal and marine tourism offers a variety of employment opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and is an important contributor to economic growth. In 2016, marine tourism directly employed 32,700 Canadians and created $1.7 billion in value-added for our economy. Its full impact is much larger, however, as it supports an additional 19,800 jobs and $2.0 billion in value-added when spin-off effects are taken into account. Recreational fishing in particular is a popular leisure activity for Canadians and thousands of visitors each year. This activity benefits many local economies; especially, in remote areas.

The global pandemic has had a profound effect on the tourism sector with border closures, travel restrictions, and certain health and safety measures. A full recovery within the tourism sector is also expected to take longer to achieve than in other ocean sectors. The Government recently increased its Regional Relief and Recovery Fund to $2 billion, of which 25% is earmarked for tourism. Continued Government support of ocean- and marine-related tourism will help this sector stabilize, recover, and drive future economic growth and the creation of good jobs for Canadians.

Future growth within the coastal and marine tourism sector will also depend on Canada’s ability to protect and enrich its vast marine biodiversity, oceans, and coastal environments. This is especially important in the Arctic because this region lacks adequate infrastructure to support tourism growth and the associated safety and security challenges, such as search and rescue operations and responses to human-caused disasters. New ideas and opportunities for coastal and marine conservation, Indigenous-led initiatives, and coastal community capacity building could advance this sector in a more inclusive and enduring way over the longer term.

A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

Ocean technology

The ocean technology sector in Canada consists mainly of small companies which offer specialized products or services based on a core technology. While these companies are found across the country, there are important clusters around the ocean science and research organizations in Vancouver, Victoria, Rimouski, Halifax, Fredericton, and St. John’s. This enables industry–research collaborations to develop cutting-edge solutions to the most challenging issues facing our oceans, while building the education and credentials of future employees.

The ocean technology sector is a key enabler of global blue economy growth. Prior to COVID–19, this was emphasized in “The Ocean Economy to 2030” report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. As ocean industries recover from the pandemic, Canada could be well-positioned to seize opportunities to grow this sector.

Ocean technology companies in Canada are world-leading innovators in sensor technology, remote sensing (radar and acoustic), subsea vehicles/robotics, autonomous systems, harsh ocean environment technology, and marine simulation. To foster continued development of new technologies, the Government supports the industry-led Ocean Supercluster, which brings together diverse ocean industries to drive innovation as a means to generating growth.

While Canada is a leader in some ocean technology areas, the sector could still benefit from Government support to recover from COVID–19 impacts, improve overall global competitiveness, and ensure longer-term growth.

A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

Future-oriented ocean industries

There are a number of future-oriented ocean industries with significant economic potential, such as marine biotechnology, offshore aquaculture, and seabed mining. The development of these industries is often based on, and enabled by, cutting-edge science and new technologies.

A blue economy strategy could help Canada capitalize on the economic opportunities presented by future-oriented ocean industries, while integrating measures to maintain ocean health and protect ocean ecosystems. We are especially well-positioned to seize the economic growth opportunities presented by marine biotechnology due to our existing expertise and abundant marine resources.

While there is no standard definition, in general, marine biotechnology produces knowledge, goods, and services from the genetic resources found in marine organisms that may be applied in other industries. Three examples include:

Marine biotechnology is a growing sector in Quebec, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island. More than 20 companies in Quebec currently receive support from the Marine Biotechnology Research Centre, which was created by the Association du cancer de l’Est du Québec and the Université du Québec à Rimouski in 2004. Genome British Columbia joined an international collaboration to develop genomic resources for salmonids that are now being used to examine responses to environmental factors, pathogens, and pollutants.

In the future, Canada could use marine biotechnology to improve the quality of our fish and seafood exports, develop valuable pharmaceutical products, and further bioremediation efforts. However, we must first address the challenges of this relatively new sector. This includes establishing a common definition of the sector and regulatory structures to support it, de-risking the development of new groundbreaking technologies, and helping industries gain access to financing.

A blue economy strategy could

Discussion questions

The big questions and ways to share your ideas

Thank you for taking the time to read this discussion paper and share your ideas. Your insights will inform the development of Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy.

There are a few overarching questions that we invite you to also consider in your submission:

  1. How do we ensure that our ocean opportunities are equitably shared?
  2. Are there other ideas that you think would help us develop Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy?
  3. Are there additional themes that you think the Government should explore?
  4. Do you have ideas that could strengthen Canada’s leadership role in ocean health and developing a sustainable blue economy?
  5. How can Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy support the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations 2030 agenda?

How to reach us

Submit your ideas or comments via email:

or by standard mail to:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Blue Economy Strategy Secretariat
200 Kent Street
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0E6

Submissions due by June 15, 2021.

Privacy statement

Fisheries and Oceans Canada invites all Canadians to comment on the Blue Economy Strategy as described in this publication. Submissions may be sent to or refer to the mailing address in the How to reach us section.

Do not provide any personal information or history.

Information received throughout this consultation process is subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. Should you express an intention that your submission, or any portions thereof, be considered confidential, we will make all reasonable efforts to protect this information.

The handling of any personal information collected in this submission process is described in the standard personal information bank Outreach Activities PSU 938.

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