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Key elements of Canada’s blue economy

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Canada’s 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, marine biotechnology, and seabed mining.

Together, these sectors generate value important to local economies, coastal regions, and the Canadian economy more broadly. 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, 2016
Sectors Seafood Offshore oil and gas Transportation Tourism and recreation Manufacturing and construction Public sector

Employment

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

Ocean-based fisheries, aquaculture and seafood processing

Commercial fisheries

Commercial fishing in Canada’s oceans is incredibly important to the local economies of coastal regions and the well-being of Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. In 2016, the sector generated approximately $3 billion in GDP and provided over 26,000 jobs across Canada.

Aquaculture

Aquaculture is a key agri-food sector that supports the world’s growing demand for animal protein. It occurs in all provinces and territories. In 2019, the sector generated 4,100 direct jobs and produced over 190,000 tonnes of product, which directly contributed $300 million to our GDP.

Fish and seafood processing

Commercial fisheries and aquaculture operations support fish and seafood processing, a key part of the value chain and another significant employer in coastal communities. An estimated 20,400 individuals are directly employed by the sector, and another 32,167 in indirect and induced jobs.

Marine transport, ports and shipbuilding

Marine transport, ports, and shipbuilding are sectors of significant import to Canada’s status as a trading nation and its economic potential.

Marine transport

This sector 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 generated 25,431 jobs in 2019, many in coastal regions and port communities.

Ports and harbours

Canada’s ports and harbours are essential enablers of marine transport and regional development, enabling businesses to fully participate in a globally integrated economy. Ports, harbours, and associated construction activities also provide a significant number of jobs in coastal communities.

Shipbuilding

Since the National Shipbuilding Strategy was introduced in 2010, 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.

Coastal and marine tourism

Coastal and marine tourism offers a variety of employment opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. In 2016, it directly employed 32,700 and created $1.7 billion in value-added for our economy. The spin-off effects support another 19,800 jobs and $2 billion in value.

Ocean-based energy

Offshore oil and gas

Projects under the Canada–Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Accord have been the main driver of this sector, contributing approximately $4.9 billion to the Canadian economy and just over 15,000 well-paying jobs.

Tidal energy

Canada recently invested in four Nova Scotia tidal projects to bring clean energy technologies to the Atlantic region and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while creating new jobs. 

Ocean technology

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.

Marine biotechnology

While there is not a set 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. This is a growing sector in Quebec, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island.

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