Angling contributes to blue bioeconomy. Photo: Colourbox.

Blue bioeconomy

Blue bioeconomy is based on sustainable and intelligent use of biological resources from the sea, lakes, streams and aquaculture. The far majority of DTU Aqua's work contributes knowledge about blue bioeconomy.

What is blue bioeconomy?

Bioeconomy is the share of the world's economy and sectors using living resources.Blue bioeconomy is the share of the bioeconomy that is based on the use of organisms from the sea, lakes, streams and aquaculture facilities, such as fish, mussels, starfish, seaweed and algae.

In comparison, the term “blue economy” covers all maritime sectors, including, e.g., offshore energy, shipping, mineral extraction, etc., in addition to the blue bioeconomy sectors.

In EU's Bioeconomy Strategy, a key focus point is that the bioeconomy must become sustainable and circular so that no resources go to waste. The objective is to benefit more from the living resources and to reduce the impact on the environment while, at the same time, creating jobs, food and possibilities for the earth's growing population.

Blue bioeconomy figure for download

The figure below shows that blue bioeconomy consists of two types of use of biological resources from the sea, lakes, streams and man-made aquaculture facilities:

  • The first type of use of biological resources in the blue bioeconomy is based on the catching and production of biomass, such as fishery and aquaculture (left side of the figure).
  • The second type of use of biological resources uses the living organisms as an "attraction" in connection with, e.g., the experience economy, such as recreational fishing (right side of the figure).

Blue bioeconomy figure 
Source: DTU Aqua. The figure may be used freely with reference
Download the figure

DTU Aqua expert on blue bioeconomy

DTU Aqua is the research, innovation and advisory institute in Denmark with the largest number of employees working within the blue bioeconomy and the management of the resources that the blue bioeconomy is based on.

On this website, you may find examples of DTU Aqua's work showing what blue bioeconomy may cover, and how the Institute contributes to the development of the blue bioeconomy.

Examples of DTU Aqua's work within blue bioeconomy:

  • Starfish become livestock feed
  • Surplus from biotech industry turned into fish feed
  • Mussels may complete nutrient cycle in coastal areas
  • Invasive round goby used for fishcakes
  • Research and advice support sustainable management
  • Nature restoration supports blue leisure
  • Experiences and learning in nature are also blue bioeconomy

Learn more about DTU Aqua's work within blue bioeconomy

Great potential in blue bioeconomy — also in Denmark 

Marine resources play a crucial part of the bioeconomy. The marine environment makes up more than 70 per cent of the earth's surface. And while the limit is close to being reached as to how much the agricultural areas may be expanded for, e.g., food production, this is not the case for the marine environment. Consequently, the marine environment probably represents some of our best chances of increasing the world's sustainable production of healthy food.

In Denmark, the sea makes up approx. 106,000 square kilometres, i.e. about 2.5 times as much as the land area. Some areas are reserved for raw material extraction, offshore wind farms, etc., but a substantial area of the Danish seas is free, and some of that may potentially be used for production.

As one of the world's largest exporters of fish and other seafood products (export of DKK 27.6 bn in 2019), Denmark is a central player in the food sector of the blue economy. The export is based on Danish fishery and aquaculture as well as a substantial import of primary products to be processed in Denmark.

At global level, the farming of fish, shellfish and seaweed is the fastest growing food industry with growth rates of approx. 6 per cent per year. When it comes to the development and production of aquaculture technology and expertise, Denmark is among the leading in the world (export of DKK 2.8 bn in 2017).

In the recreational field, Denmark also has great benefit of the living resources in the sea, lakes and streams, e.g. in the form of recreational fishing. In 2015, it was estimated that 384,000 adult Danes had been on a fishing trip that year. Recreational fishing tourism is economically important in several parts of Denmark and is estimated to provide a turnover of approx. DKK 1 bn (2017), e.g. through overnight stays and shopping.

Diving, snorkelling and nature tourism, such as whale and seal watching, are examples of other recreational activities within blue bioeconomy in Denmark. It is estimated that approx. 163,000 Danes dived or snorkelled in 2015.

Growing focus on sustainability in blue bioeconomy

As part of the production of food, energy, tourism, transport, etc., moves out to sea, the need for research, management and monitoring of the sea's ecosystems grows in order to ensure that the exploitation takes place sustainably. This need appears from, e.g., the EU's Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Directive for Establishing a Framework for Maritime Spatial Planning and the Common Fisheries Policy. DTU Aqua supports Denmark's possibilities for the sustainable development of the blue bioeconomy through its research, innovation, education and advising of authorities.


Dennis Lisbjerg
Senior Executive Officer
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 33 45
Christian Riisager-Simonsen
Academic Employee
DTU Aqua
+45 91 37 00 58