Marine Jobs

The Ocean Health Index used global data for Marine Jobs to calculate Status and Trend for the Livelihoods sub-goal of Coastal Livelihoods and Economies. This component includes the following six marine sectors: Wages, Tourism, Wave and Tidal Energy, Mariculture, Commercial Fishing, and National Unemployment Status.

Which Goals Does This Affect?


A wage is the financial compensation received by workers or employees in exchange for their labor on a job, either as hourly earnings or weekly or monthly salary. Marine wages represent the compensation received by those working in ocean- or coastal-related industries.

Wage levels for marine jobs depend on the industry and its products or services and should include: direct wages and salaries, remuneration for time not worked, bonuses, gratuities and housing and family allowances paid by the employer directly to this employee (ILO 1973).

How Was It Measured?

The Occupational Wages around the World (OWW) database provided data drawn from the International Labour Organization, which were subjected to a standardization process. The database provides several different calibrations, and the “x3wl calibration” was used. This calibration is described by the database creators as a “country-specific and uniform calibration with lexicographic weighting,” and recommended as being the preferred calibration in most cases.

Although significant gaps exist in this database, it contains country-specific information on average wages in many industries for more than 150 countries from 1983-2008. Data represent average monthly wages of a male worker. These wages were multiplied by 12 in order to obtain annual wages and all values were converted to 2010 USD, and then adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP) to control for differences in the purchasing power of a dollar across countries with respect to a range of common goods.

Industry and occupation classifications reported in the OWW were used to estimate wages for the five marine-related sectors where global data were available: Tourism, Commercial Fishing, Transportation and Shipping, Ports and Harbors, and Ship and Boatbuilding.  Within each country, PPP-corrected wages were averaged across all sectors and compared with their counterparts in the reference country that had the highest average wages across all marine sectors. 

What Are The Impacts?

The level of wages paid expresses the value that the employer assigns to the job and, to some extent, represents or supports the employee’s own sense of employment value and self worth.  Wage levels influence a person’s ability to survive and help others, including raising a family or helping members of an extended family.  Competitive wages are one important determinant of whether people will work in marine sectors or seek more lucrative work elsewhere, possibly compromising the economic vibrancy of coastal communities. 


Marine and coastal tourism makes up the largest segment of the worldwide tourism and travel industry and is responsible for more than 200 million jobs all over the world.

In 2009, international tourism receipts were US $852 billion. Tourism and travel is the largest service sector industry and an important part of the world economy.  In 2010, travel and tourism was projected to account for 9.2% (US $5.7 trillion) of global GDP and 235 million jobs.

Tourism has grown by 6% to 8% annually since 1985, and faster in Least Developed Countries (LDCs). It plays a major role as one of the top five export earners in the economies of 80% of the world’s countries and is the number one export in 60 countries. It is the primary source of foreign exchange earnings in 46 of the 49 LDCs. (Honey and Krantz, 2007; CREST, 2009).

How Was It Measured?

Data were utilized from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) for years 1988-2010 on travel and tourism’s total contribution to employment for 180 countries. Although other global data sources on tourism are available (i.e. United Nations World Tourism Organization UNTWO), the WTTC database was used because it contains information for each year for nearly all nations, including data on direct and indirect employment impacts of tourism. Since neither UNTWO nor WTTC data distinguish between coastal/marine and inland tourism, the jobs provided solely by coastal/marine tourism were estimated by adjusting each country’s national tourism data by the proportion of the country’s population that lives within 25 miles (65 km) of the coast. 

What Are The Impacts?

Marine tourism can result in negative potential impacts if not done in a sustainable manner.

Coastal development can destroy vital habitats including mangroves, coral reefs, wetlands and estuaries.

Sewage generated by tourists may exacerbate existing pollution problems in local communities.

An increase in demand for seafood in tourist destinations may result in the overexploitation of local resources.

Scuba diving, snorkeling gear and anchors may damage marine habitats (e.g. coral reefs).
No direct impacts known.
Tourism has become a major factor in the economies of developing countries. Tourism contributes 7% of jobs worldwide and accounts for 6% of the world’s exports and 30% of the world's exports in services (UNWTO 2010).

The rapid expansion of international tourism has led to significant employment creation, generating jobs directly through hotels, restaurants, guide services, taxis, and souvenir sales; and indirectly through the supply of goods and services needed by tourism-related businesses.

Wave and Tidal Energy

‘Wave energy’, ‘ocean energy’’ and ‘tidal energy’ are terms for the kinetic energy of moving water or the potential energy of water raised by high tide. Extraction of these types of energy to produce electrical power is renewable since they do not burn or consume an energy source, but instead use the properties of moving water to generate power.

The majority of waves and horizontal ocean currents are produced by large-scale wind patterns and differential heating of the sea surface in different geographical locations. Vertical currents are driven by variations in density caused by differences in temperature, salinity and other contributing factors.

Currently, tidal energy programs are being developed and initial projects are in various stages of planning or implementation. Efforts to harness wave and ocean energy from horizontal or vertical currents are in their infancy and global data are not yet available.

The United Nations Energy Statistics Database provides production data, in kilowatt-hours (KWh), for tidal and wave electricity, but only France and Canada currently have high enough levels of production for tidal energy to be included in this database.

How Was It Measured?

For the two countries, France and Canada, which produce amounts of tidal energy that are sufficient to register with the UN Energy Statistics Database, the Ocean Health Index estimated numbers of employees. For the La Rance plant in France, this information was obtained from a recent press statement (90) and it was assumed that employment stayed constant over the time period for which production data were provided; production given was relatively consistent (or growing). For the Annapolis Royal plant in Canada, data were received directly from the plant regarding employment over time.

What Are The Impacts?

The classic, barrage, method of harnessing tidal energy has the potential to upset fish migrations, alter entire estuarine ecosystems, and affect marine mammals that use these estuaries as their habitat (El-Geziry et al. 2009).
No direct impacts known.
Tidal energy is capable of producing power without contributing emissions of CO2, particulates or other detrimental wastes. The construction and management of these plants can provide employment in areas where other options are not feasible.

Tidal energy plants could affect local fishing opportunities if they exclude fish or related labor resources.

Maintenance costs could be incurred, as marine energy plants will require frequent upkeep due to environmental factors.

Tidal energy production is limited to daily wave cycles and may require expensive storage facilities.

Get More Information

Government of Nova Scotia 
FORCE (Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy)

U.S. Department of Energy (EERE)
EERE provides Information on Ocean Tidal Power technologies and the environmental and economic challenges faced in the US.

The Pembina Institute
The Institute provides information on the benefits and challenges of tidal power as an energy source.


The term aquaculture refers to the cultivation in water of animals or plants for human consumption.  Depending upon the particular species, aquaculture can involve freshwater, brackish water or saltwater populations.

Mariculture refers specifically to cultured food production in marine or brackish waters using floating cages, net enclosures, natural or artificial ponds, or closed circulation water systems. Sustainable mariculture supports human well-being, but does not harm habitats or introduce alien species or genotypes to ocean ecosystems.

Mariculture’s share of global total production is rising, from 35% in 2006 to 37% percent in 2008, when mariculture produced 52.5 million tons of seafood with an estimated value of US$98.4 billion (FAO 2010).

Increased production requires mariculture-related jobs in countries where seafood is farmed.

How Was It Measured?

Data on mariculture jobs come from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Global Number of Fishers (GNF) data set. The dataset contains yearly total numbers of employees in commercial fishing, subsistence fishing, and aquaculture (land and ocean-based combined) between 1970 and 2008 for more than 160 countries.

The Ocean Health Index estimated mariculture jobs with the dataset’s ‘Aquatic-life cultivation’ category. The database disaggregates jobs into full-time, part-time, occasional, and unspecified statuses, so a weighting scheme was utilized such that full time = 1 job, part-time = 0.6, occasional = 0.15, and unspecified = 0.5. Since ‘Aquatic-life cultivation’ includes marine, brackish and freshwater aquaculture, the proportion of total aquaculture jobs attributable to marine and brackish aquaculture had to be estimated.

FAO aquaculture production data (obtained from Fish Stat) were used to calculate country-specific proportions of marine and brackish aquaculture revenues compared to total revenues and it was assumed that these proportions also held for jobs. To fill data gaps, the country-specific proportion from the most recent year for which data were available were used. 

What Are The Impacts?

As the volume of mariculture production has risen steadily over the past 30 years, so has the potential risk to surrounding environments, especially in instances where farmed populations escape into the wild.

If genetically modified, farmed, species come into contact with wild stocks, there is the risk of “biological pollution” through interbreeding, which can weaken ecosystem structure and foster the spread of disease.

Certain mariculture methods can damage or destroy coastal habitats.  Mangroves, in particular, have suffered significant losses as forests worldwide are cleared to make way for shrimp farms. 

By some estimates, shrimp farming is responsible for 10% of global mangrove loss (FAO 2006).

Nutrient pollution from (fish) waste and chemical pollution from compounds employed to kill parasites in mariculture species can have adverse effects upon the environment.
Over 1 billion people are dependent on fish or seafood as their daily source of protein. As the population continues to grow, it becomes increasingly important to implement sustainable mariculture.

Demand for seafood is expected to continue growing by as much as 10 percent annually, or 11 million tons per year for the foreseeable future (FAO 2008).

The growing field of aquaculture has the potential to supplement nutrition, alleviate hunger, improve food security and reduce poverty in many regions (Subasinghe et al. 2009; WFS 2011).
Many nations utilize aquaculture to provide food for local communities, as well as for generated export revenue that could potentially lead to long-term social benefits. Local, rural, communities see benefits from job opportunities within aquaculture, but these may be reduced if traditional employment among local interest groups is at odds with the aquaculture industry.

Employment in fisheries and aquaculture has continued to grow during the past three decades, with an average increase of 3.6% per year since 1980. Job opportunities in aquaculture have continued to increase while employment rates in capture fisheries are flattening/decreasing.

In 2008, fish farmers accounted for nearly one-quarter (10.8 million) of the total number of workers in the fisheries and aquaculture sector (44.9 million).  At least 12% were women. Since 1990, fish farmers have experienced the greatest increases in their numbers, with most of the growth occurring in Asia, particularly in China, where the number of fish farmers increased by 189 percent in the period 1990–2008. (FAO 2010a).

Commercial Fishing

In general, commercial fishing refers to the harvest of fish, shellfish, crustaceans and other aquatic forms of plants and animals from oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, and reservoirs for sale, barter, or trade (OECD, 1998).

For the purposes of the Ocean Health Index, ‘commercial fishing’ refers solely to marine capture fisheries that harvest fish, shellfish or other organisms from wild populations primarily for human consumption. Commercial fishing marine jobs include only those in the marine commercial fishing sector.

Together, capture fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 142 million tons of fish in 2008. Harvesting, processing and selling that catch provided livelihoods for millions of people around the world.  The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated that 44.9 million people were directly engaged, full time or (more frequently) part-time in capture fisheries (34.1 million) or in aquaculture (10.8 million), and that for each person employed in harvesting, approximately three jobs are produced in secondary activities, totaling more than 180 million jobs for the entire fish industry. It was also estimated that each of those jobs supported livelihoods for about 3 people (e.g. family members), so that about 540 million people---nearly 8.0 percent of the world’s population--- ultimately depends on marine and freshwater fishing and aquaculture (FAO 2010).

How Was It Measured?

Data used were from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Fisheries and Aquaculture Department Global Number of Fishers (GNF) dataset. The dataset contains yearly total numbers of employees in commercial fishing, subsistence fishing, and aquaculture (land and ocean-based combined), in more than 160 countries, between 1970 and 2008.

The dataset includes: aquatic-life cultivation, inland waters fishing, marine coastal waters fishing; marine deep-sea waters fishing, subsistence and unspecified. Jobs with an unspecified category were omitted in order to avoid overestimating employment for marine fishing or aquaculture. Jobs in the subsistence category were omitted since subsistence opportunities were captured within the Artisanal Fishing Opportunity goal. Jobs in the aquatic-life cultivation category were also omitted because they were assessed in the Mariculture goal. For commercial fishing, inland water fishing was eliminated and marine coastal waters and marine deep-sea waters fishing were summed for each country per year.

Data were reported separately for men and women, and the sum of these numbers was utilized. Employment is disaggregated into full-time workers (> 90% of their time or livelihood from fishing/aquaculture), part-time (30-90% time or livelihood from fishing/aquaculture), and occasional workers (< 30% time).  Unspecified status workers can be found anywhere from 0-100% time. Based on the midpoints of those ranges, it was assumed that 1 part time worker = 0.6 full time workers, 1 occasional worker = 0.15 full time workers, and 1 unspecified worker = 0.5 full time workers, and these percentages were used as a weighting scheme for determining total numbers of jobs.

What Are The Impacts?

Commercial fishing has a significant impact on the marine environment, as capture of fish and sea life modifies ecosystem structure and function, and habitats may be damaged or destroyed by bottom trawling or other harmful fishing practices.

Overfishing of target species, non-target species, and associated bycatch of fish and invertebrates can have consequent effects on marine habitat structure and biodiversity.
Commercial fishing is a principal source of protein and nutrients for global communities and a decrease in harvest can put food security at risk for those that are dependent upon it. 
Wild capture fisheries continue to be the largest provider of jobs in the marine food production sector, although aquaculture is steadily providing increased opportunities in the field.

Employment in fishing is decreasing in capital-intensive economies, especially in most European countries, North America and Japan. Employment in fisheries and aquaculture within developed countries decreased 11% in the past two decades from about 1.46 million in 1990 to 1.3 million in 2008.  Causative factors include decreased catches, programs to reduce fishing capacity and increased productivity through technical progress (FAO 2010).

National Unemployment Status

Unemployment refers to the share of the labor force that is without work but available for and seeking employment. Definitions of labor force and unemployment differ by country.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines the term ‘unemployed’ as people who do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the past four weeks, and are currently available for work. Also considered to be unemployed are people who have been temporarily laid off and are waiting to be called back to that job.

How Was It Measured?

National unemployment data on the percentage of the national labor force that is not employed were obtained from the World Bank at

What Are The Impacts?

Each country’s goal in regard to Livelihoods is that there should be no loss of marine sector jobs and that the rate of job growth must keep pace with growth in the overall national employment rate, or sustain losses no greater in absolute percentage than increases in the overall national unemployment rate. Maintaining employment in marine-related industries is essential for the continued economic health of coastal communities.


PHOTO(S): © Keith A. Ellenbogen
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