Marine Economy Pours Billions Into America’s GDP, Reports Show

A chart showing the percent change in the marine economy compared to the U.S. economy in 2020. Image: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Economic reports compiled by two Commerce Department agencies confirm that America’s marine economy continues to pour billions of dollars into the nation’s gross domestic product, albeit tempered by a general economic decline during the first year of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Results of the annual Marine Economy Satellite Account released in June by NOAA and the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that amounted to some $361 billion in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. That total represents a 5.8% or $23 billion reduction in real terms, adjusted for inflation, from 2019, outpacing the general economic decline of 3.4%.

The data, report and other materials are available at and on the BEA Marine Economy website at

“Supporting the maritime economy while also addressing the climate crisis is an essential and existential component of the Commerce Department’s work to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement.

“Our oceans and Great Lakes are essential to America’s overall economy, as it is nearly impossible to go a day without eating, wearing or using items that come from or through our ports,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said. “These economic data are essential for understanding how the marine economy influences coastal communities and the American economy as a whole.”

NOAA and BEA economists included in their report that 10 sectors representing businesses were dependent on the nation’s ocean coasts and Great Lakes between 2014 and 2020. Businesses included in the report generated a total of $610 billion in sales and supported 2.2 million jobs in 2020.

The businesses ranged from coastal tourism and recreation at $191 billion in 2020, a 20% decline from 2019; and marine transportation at $54 billion in 2020, down 16% from 2019, to ship and boat building at $16 billion in 2020, a 0.9% decline from 2019; marine construction at $7 billion in 2020, a 0.6% decline from 2019; and professional and technical services at $6 billion in 2020, with a 2.15 decline from 2019.

Nicole LeBoeuf, director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service, said the numbers provide stark proof of just how tied the blue economy is to the prosperity of the rest of the nation.

“What happens in this sector has ripple effects through the entire nation, which relies on America’s blue economy as a driver of jobs, innovation and economic growth,” she said.

“Of particular note,” NOAA Chief Economist Monica Grasso said, “(is) the marine-based pharmacy industry, one of the components of the Living Resources sector, had an increase of almost 50% in sales, due to the approval of new marine-based drugs for cancer treatment.”