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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 used global data from the Marine Revenue component to calculate the Status and Trend for the Economies sub-goal of the Coastal Livelihoods & Economies goal. The marine sectors evaluated for Coastal Livelihoods & Economies are: 1) commercial fishing 2) mariculture 3) tourism and recreation 4) shipping and transportation 5) whale watching 6) ports and harbors 7) ship and boat building 8) renewable energy production (wind and wave) and 9) aquarium fishing.

The Ocean Health Index looked at status and trends for marine revenue in the six sectors for which there were global data. Those six marine sectors are 1) Aquarium Trade Fishing 2) Marine Commercial Fishing 3) Mariculture 4) Marine Mammal Watching 5) Tidal Energy and 6) Tourism.

Marine-Related Employment Encompasses Many Sectors

How Was It Measured?

Marine revenue was used to calculate the Status and Trend of the Coastal Livelihoods & Economies goal, specifically for the Economies subgoal. The Economies subgoal was calculated by taking the sum of the total adjusted revenue generated directly and indirectly from each sector for the current time period, divided by the sum of the of the total adjusted revenue generated directly and indirectly from each sector for the reference time period. Revenue data were adjusted by dividing by GDP per country (reported in 2013 USD; data from the World Bank), and dollar amounts were standardized to a specific year to control for inflation/deflation.

The OHI used a temporal reference point in calculating the status and trend of marine revenue. This was calculated by looking at the current or most recent year relative to the value in a recent moving reference period. The reference period was set as five years prior to the most recent year. The most recent year was required to be from 2000 or later.

Sector-specific multipliers were used to calculate total revenue created by sector-based employment in both developed and developing nations. These multipliers were used to estimate total revenue (direct, indirect, and induced) because only data on direct revenue were available for all sectors except tourism. Specific values can be found in Table S10 of the supplementary information to Halpern et al. 2012, which can be found here

Although data specific to the following six sectors are used, the Status of individual sectors is not tracked. Instead, the OHI focuses on the Status of all sectors together.

Aquarium Trade Fishing

Information on aquarium trade fishing revenue were obtained from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) using FishStatJ 2.0.0. Data are available from 1976 to present. The 2.0.0 version of FishStatJ included three subcategory characterizations. The two used in the OHI are "ornamental fish nei" and "ornamental saltwater fish".            

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 beginning in 1950. Data are given by species. In order to isolate marine and brackish fishery production, data for freshwater species were omitted. 


Data pertaining to mariculture revenue were derived from FAO’s FishStatJ 2.0.0 database, which includes country-level data on total production values (marine, brackish, and freshwater) of aquaculture from 1984 to present. The updated 2.0.0 version of FishStatJ included a filter feature that allowed the OHI to include marine and brackish environments while omitting freshwater environments. Data for the most recent year available are used as input for calculating current Status.

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 also reports time series data on the dollar values of visitor exports (spending by foreign visitors) and domestic travel and tourism spending.

Data from the WTTC on the total contribution to GDP through 2012 were used in calculating this component. Total contribution includes data from sectors that are both direct and indirect contributors to travel and tourism.  

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)

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. Unsustainable harvest methods, such as using cyanide, can decrease the benefits from this and other goals that depend on healthy coral reefs.

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 large enough to produce yields that are sustainable year after year. 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), which were achieved through international resilience actions such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (1973); and International Whaling Commission Moratorium on Commercial Whaling (1982, took effect in 1986); and national regulations such as the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972), U.S. Endangered Species Act (1973) and similar laws in many other countries.  

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.

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.

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.

World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC)

This website provides economic information pertaining to tourism activity and is searchable by country and/or by region.


Bruckner, A.W. (2005). The importance on the marine ornamental reef fish trade in the wider Caribbean. Revista de Biologia Tropical 53S1: 127–138.

Cho, L. (2005). Marine protected areas: a tool for integrated coastal management in Belize. Ocean Coast Manage 48:932–947

Diedrich, A. (2007). The impacts of tourism on coral reef conservation awareness and support in coastal communities in Belize. Coral Reefs, 26, 985–996.

Diedrich, A. (2010). Cruise ship tourism in Belize: The implications of developing cruise ship tourism in an ecotourism destination. Ocean and Coastal Management, 53, pp. 234-244

Hammerton, Z., K. Dimmock, C. Hahn, S.J. Dalton and S.D.A. Smith. (2012). Scuba diving and marine conservation: collaboration at two Australian subtropical destinations. Tourism in Marine Environments: Special Issue, vol. 8, no. 1-2, pp. 77-90.

Hoyt, E. (2008). Whale watching. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, 2nd Edition (Perrin, W.F., B. Würsig and J.G.M. Thewissen, eds.) Academic Press, San Diego, CA., pp. 1219-1223.

O’Connor, S., R. Campbell, H. Cortez and T. Knowles. (2009). Whale Watching Worldwide: tourism numbers, expenditures and expanding economic benefits. A Special Report from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Yarmouth MA, USA, prepared by Economists at Large. 295 pp. 

Punt A.E., N. Friday and T.D. Smith. (2006). Reconciling data on the trends and abundance of North Atlantic humpback whales within a population modelling framework. J. Cetacean Res. Manage. 8(2):145-159.

Seger, Jon. (2005). The growth of whale watching. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Volume: 310, Issue: 5977, Publisher: Academic Press, Pages: 1223-1227

Wilson, C., and C. Tisdell. (2003). Conservation and economic benefits of wildlife-based marine tourism: sea turtles and whales as case studies. Human Dimensions of Wildlife 8:49–58.

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