Marine Revenue

Marine revenue is the total amount of money received by individuals and companies selling products or services derived from the ocean. 

The Ocean Health Index looked at status and trends for marine revenue in six sectors for which there were global data.

Marine-Related Employment Encompasses Many Sectors
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Which Goals Does This Affect?

How Was It Measured?

Marine revenue is an aggregate of the global revenue gained through the six marine activities/industries for which data were available.

Aquarium Trade Fishing

To approximate revenue for aquarium trade fishing, export data were used from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Global Commodities database for ‘Ornamental Fish’ for all available years, 1976-2007.

Marine Commercial Fishing

Revenue data for commercial fishing were obtained from FAO’s FishStat database, which provides yearly dollar values of commercial fisheries production in marine, brackish and fresh waters from 1950 to 2007. Data are given by species. In order to isolate marine and brackish fishery production, data for freshwater species were omitted.


Data pertaining to revenues for mariculture were derived from FAO’s FishStat database, which includes country-level data on total production values (marine, brackish, and freshwater) of aquaculture from 1984 to 2010. Production values were only used for marine and brackish aquaculture; data pertaining to freshwater species were omitted. 

Marine Mammal Watching

Country-level data for marine mammal-watching were derived from The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). IFAW provides time series data, for a minimum of four years between 1991 and 2008, on total expenditures (direct and indirect) attributable to the industry. Total expenditures were used as a close proxy for total revenue (O’Connor et al. 2009).

Tide and Wave Electricity Production (Tidal Energy)

The United Nations Energy Statistics Database provides production data, in kilowatt-hours (kWh), for tidal and wave electricity. To convert production data into revenue, production values were multiplied by average yearly prices of electricity per kWh specific to Canada and France, provided by the US Energy Information Administration after conversion to 2010 USD. Currently, only France and Canada have the requisite production levels for this database, both for tidal and wave energy production.

Marine Tourism

Time series data for marine tourism revenue were derived from the World Tourism & Travel Council (WTTC) on foreign visitor spending for domestic travel and tourism. WTTC (see jobs section) also reports time series data on the dollar values of visitor exports (spending by foreign visitors) and domestic travel and tourism spending. Total revenue data were adjusted according to the proportion of the population that lives within a coastal zone extending 25-miles inland. 

What Are The Impacts?

Changes in Marine Revenue vs. Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
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Marine revenue is a substantial component of GDP for many countries.

Some types of marine revenue are dependent upon healthy ecosystems and can serve as indicators of ecological health.

Aquarium Trade Fishing

The sustainable harvest of fish for the ornamental aquarium trade provides income and livelihoods for many coastal nations.

Forty-five (45) countries currently supply global markets for ornamental fish, exporting 14-30 million fish annually with a wholesale value of US $28-44 million and a retail value approaching US $300 million (Bruckner, 2005).

Marine Commercial Fishing

Revenue from landings of commercial fish caught in the U.S. (4 million tons in 2010) averaged $4 billion from 2008-2010; and international trade in coastal and marine fisheries added $70 billion to the U.S. economy (NOAA, State of the Coast 2010).

For commercial fisheries to maintain high revenues, fish populations must be sustainable. Better-managed fish stocks have the potential to increase the annual productivity of commercial marine fisheries by $50 billion (World Bank 2008).

Global gross revenue from landings of wild-caught marine fish was $86 billion in 2007 and has averaged between $80 and $85 billion annually. When broader impacts of those landings are taken into account, the economic value rises to approximately $240 billion (Dyck and Sumaila, 2010).


Aquaculture revenues have experienced significant increases in many locations in recent years, and are forecast to increase further in the future.

South Korea’s aquaculture industry (fresh and saltwater) had a total revenue of US $1.4 billion in 2010. It has an anticipated compound annual growth rate of 6.8% for the five-year period 2010-2015, which is expected to drive the industry to a value of $1.9 billion by the end of 2015.

Marine Mammal Watching

Marine mammal watching and marine tourism depend on ecological health to attract tourists and marine wildlife enthusiasts.

The mammal-watching industry’s growth is closely tied to healthy and rebounding whale populations around the globe (O’Connor et al. 2009).

Marine mammal watching revenue has risen dramatically over the past four decades, increasing 150-fold from 1981-2008. It is now a $2.1 billion dollar per year industry. (O’Connor et al. 2009).

Tide & Wave Electricity Production (Tidal Energy)

Despite great potential, the development of tide and wave energy is still in its infancy. Currently, only France and Canada have large enough installations to be recorded in global data. However, research and development are proceeding in the United Kingdom, Australia and other countries, although it is still too early for them to produce sustained revenue. 

Marine Tourism

For countries by the sea, coastal and marine tourism may be the most viable and sustainable economic development option and the main source of foreign exchange earnings.  For example, in some small island states, tourism can account for more than 25% of GDP (UNWTO 2010).

In Australia, tourism on the Great Barrier Reef contributes $5.1 billion annually (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority [GBRMPA]).

Marine tourism revenue from activities such as SCUBA diving depends upon healthy ecosystems to attract tourists (Hammerton et al., 2012).

In some cases, revenue from marine tourism is used to fund marine research and conservation efforts in order to improve overall ecological health (Wilson and Tisdell, 2003).

Get More Information

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations; Fisheries and Aquaculture Department FAO Data Query for Global Fisheries Production
This query system allows interested parties to obtain quantity and volume information for fishery-related products, searching either by product or by country.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations; Fisheries and Aquaculture Department FAO Data Query for Global Aquaculture Production
This database provides aquaculture volume and value statistics by country or area, fishing area and culture environment.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service Data Query for U.S. Fisheries Landings and Revenue
This database provides quantity and value information for U.S. fisheries, searchable by species, year(s), or state/area.

World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC)
This website provides economic information pertaining to tourism activity and is searchable by country and/or by region.

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) 2009 Report on Global Marine Mammal Watching
This report provides economic data on marine mammal watching worldwide for 2008, offering regional summaries and in-depth country-by-country analyses.

Australian Government: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act was enacted in order to protect a critical global resource and World Heritage Area.

Renewable Energy World.Com
Information on recent progress in renewable energy sources, including tidal and wave energy.

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PHOTO(S): © Keith A. Ellenbogen
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