New report indicates US marine economy worth USD 373 billion

Published on
June 2, 2020

A new joint report put together by NOAA and the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has found that the country’s marine economy contributed USD 373 billion (EUR 334 billion) to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018.

The new report covers a wide range of the ocean economy, from “living resources” in the seafood industry to transportation and warehousing, offshore mining, scientific research, and more. All told, from 2017 to 2018, the marine economy – including economic activity sourced to the nation’s oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes – grew by 5.8 percent, faster than the 5.4 percent growth of the total U.S. GDP.

“These statistics are the first-of-its-kind estimate of the U.S. marine economy, a primary driver of jobs, innovation, and economic growth,” said retired Navy Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet, the U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator, in a press release. “Data such as these provide a critical baseline to inform, track progress, and accelerate America’s economic recovery.”

Of that total, commercial harvest, seafood markets, and processing contributed USD 12.7 billion (EUR 11.3 billion) in value to the U.S. economy, according to the report. Of that total, harvests and seafood markets contributed USD 7.3 billion (EUR 6.5 billion), while seafood processing contributed USD 4.3 billion (EUR 3.8 billion).

The statistics, according to NOAA, are the most comprehensive and accurate produced to-date.

“For the first time, the United States has ocean data that can be compared with our official statistics on other U.S. industries and with the ocean economies of other nations,” BEA Acting Director Mary Bohman said. “These prototype statistics offer a baseline for understanding the importance of the ocean economy, including recreation, seafood, transportation, and ship-building. Businesses, policymakers, and coastal communities can use these economic data as a compass as they chart the way forward.”

According to Kate Quigley, an economist with NOAA, the new data takes into account some of the information that NOAA Fisheries regularly aggregates in its annual “Fisheries of the United States” report.

“We coordinated quite a bit with NOAA Fisheries, understanding that they already have data on the seafood industry,” Quigley said during a press call announcing the new report.

Quigley added that while the BEA report doesn’t go into as specific detail regarding the seafood industry as the NOAA Fisheries report, it includes a wider range of potential impacts from the seafood sector.

“It’s coming under a broader list of sectors than is done by NOAA Fisheries,” she said.

The report's calculations line up well with the annual NOAA report's findings, Quigley added.

“The marine economy statistics clarify just how dependent America is on our waters,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “It is nearly impossible for most Americans to go a single day without eating, wearing, or using products that come from or through our coastal communities.” 

Photo courtesy of NOAA

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