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Blue Economy

A sustainable ocean and coastal economy, which emerges when economic activity is in balance with the long-term capacity of ocean and coastal ecosystems to support this activity and remain resilient and healthy


North Carolina’s ocean and coastal areas and their resources shape a unique and important segment of the state’s economy, particularly for its coastal counties. From seafood and commercial fishing, to access to global markets through shipping and transport, and finally tourism and recreation, thousands of jobs and billions in revenue for the state depend on the ocean and coast.

North Carolina’s ocean economy includes the economic activities that take place in the ocean, receive inputs from the ocean and deliver outputs to the ocean. These activities take place in the state’s coastal counties, coastal waters under state jurisdiction and adjacent federal waters.

Natural resources and ecological systems underpin the state’s ocean economy, functioning as the natural capital asset base. This asset base includes fish stocks, beach and coastal water quality, and natural habitats and associated biodiversity.

Ocean economy activities, which depend heavily on the health of the underlying natural capital asset base, also have the potential to deplete it — putting jobs and economic growth at risk. A sustainable ocean economy emerges when economic activity is in balance with the long-term capacity of ocean ecosystems, resulting in a blue economy.


North Carolina’s Ocean Economy: A First Assessment and Transitioning to a Blue Economy

This white paper by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and North Carolina Sea Grant provides an initial assessment of North Carolina’s ocean economy and an outline for transitioning to a blue economy

North Carolina’s Blue Economy Information Series

This information series describes research and extension activities related to the state’s ocean economy and the underlying natural resources.

Issue 1: What is North Carolina’s Blue Economy?

This inaugural issue of North Carolina’s Blue Economy Information Series summarizes the key findings from a white paper assessment of North Carolina’s Ocean Economy.

Issue 2: Financing: Support Programs for North Carolina Shellfish Farmers

This issue describes financial support programs available to North Carolina shellfish growers, and programs in other states that could be replicated here.

Issue 3: Sea-to-School: Serving Cape Shark for Lunch at Cape Hatteras Secondary School

This issue explores a pilot project to offer cape shark — also known as spiny dogfish — in the cafeteria at Cape Hatteras Secondary School. Find the final report for the pilot project at

Issue 4: Rural Economic Development in the Coastal Region

This issue discusses factors that affect economic development in rural areas in the coastal region.

Issue 5: Coastal Landscaping: The Next Blue Economy Sector?

This issue examines landscaping preferences and practices of coastal residents living in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and provides recommendations for environmentally friendly landscaping.

Ongoing Projects


Jane Harrison — Coastal economist, North Carolina Sea Grant
(919) 513-0122 or