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Oceans and fisheries

Blue bioeconomy and blue biotechnology

The emerging blue bioeconomy and biotechnology sectors look at groups of marine organisms that until now often have been ignored for commercial exploitation.

This includes microorganisms (microalgae, bacteria and fungi), algae and invertebrates (e.g. starfish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins).

The blue bioeconomy turns aquatic biomass into food, feed, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, energy, packaging, clothes and much more.

Blue biotechnology is the application of science and technology to living aquatic organisms for the production of knowledge, goods and services (OECD, 2016).


The blue bioeconomy is developing fast in Europe and it benefits from strong research and stakeholder engagement by the EU. But its development is uneven. While in some regions and countries, several innovative products are already available on the market, this is not yet the case everywhere in the EU. The European Commission therefore works with European stakeholders to ensure a level playing field through the Blue bioeconomy forum.

The EU algae initiative identifies 23 actions, each of which contributes to the development of a robust and sustainable EU algae sector. The implementation of the actions will lead to more harmonized governance and legal frameworks, improved business environments, increased social awareness and acceptance of algae and algae-based products by European consumers, and close the knowledge, research, and technology gaps. 


Algae are an incredibly versatile material, with potential new applications in various sectors of the economy. They are being used to develop new pharmaceuticals (e.g. to treat viral infections like Covid or heal wounds), bring healthy food to the market or substitute fish oil in animal feed. Adding algae to cattle diets can help reduce the methane emissions from bovines. Seaweed aquaculture, especially if combined with shellfish aquaculture, will not only provide healthy food but also contribute to ecosystem services: carbon sequestration, removal of nutrients and CO2, ecosystem support, ocean habitat restoration, coastal ecosystem resilience…

Algae also have a potential to be used for cosmetics (anti-aging moisturisers, toothpaste), crop nutrition/bio-fertilizers, bio-packaging (packaging, coatings and plastic films for food containers), energy (biofuel) etc.

Beyond these examples, seaweed has many more innovative applications which are still being developed or scaled, including textile fibres, laundry detergents, construction materials, and biochar for soil improvement.

Thanks to EU investment in the blue bioeconomy, these developments will lead to new jobs and sustainable growth in coastal regions, and much beyond.