The Florida House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee unanimously approved legislation to establish the Office of the Blue Economy within the State University System, aimed at promoting sustainable economic growth by leveraging the state’s coastal resources and maritime industries.
The House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee unanimously advanced legislation on Tuesday to establish the Office of the Blue Economy, a move set to harness Florida’s coastal and ocean resources for sustainable economic development.
The measure, carried by Reps. Chip LaMarca and Kelly Skidmore, seeks to establish the Office of the Blue Economy within the State University System. The initiative, if adopted, would integrate academic research with the economic potential of maritime industries, aquaculture, and tourism, among others, with an eye toward sustainable growth and environmental stewardship.
“Florida has 8,436 miles of coastline, the second longest in the U.S., containing essential, valuable, and iconic natural resources, which makes it the best place for us to plant the blue economy flag,” said LaMarca. “This bill creates the path for the state to connect the economic resources with the relevant industries needed to make Florida a global leader in this space.”
Key responsibilities of the Office of the Blue Economy would include fostering collaboration among state universities and colleges, facilitating the commercialization of academic research, and developing strategies to overcome economic challenges through technological and innovative solutions.
The office would be additionally tasked with publishing annual reports on job growth, wages, and addressing labor shortages within the blue economy sectors, thereby providing a framework for targeted economic development and policy-making. The measure also mandates the office to engage in educational activities and promote Florida as a leading destination for blue economy investments and activities on both national and international stages.
“This bill is a huge step forward in ensuring Florida is a global leader in research and innovation relating to the blue economy,” Skidmore said. “Fostering Florida’s blue economy benefits all Floridians and ultimately impacts all the major industrial sectors of our state. Florida is this country’s most recognizable peninsula, with an impressive array of water sources, and it is our responsibility to harness this resource in a way that positively benefits our residents, our environment, and our economy.”
Similar legislation is currently being heard in the Senate, filed by Sen Jason Pizzo. His bill proposes an amendment to the current practices of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research that would mandate biennial evaluations of the state’s ‘blue economy,’ starting January 1, 2025.
The evaluations are expected to provide insights into the current economic contributions of sectors like shipyards, marinas, fishing, aquaculture, and tourism, and compare them with similar industries in other states. This assessment, due for its first report in 2026, will serve to quantify the economic benefits of the blue economy, potentially guiding future policy decisions. Additionally, from 2026 onward, a more in-depth analysis of the blue economy’s overall economic benefits will be required, should the bill be ratified.
Per state data, there are approximately 1,000 certified aquaculture farms in Florida, located in every region of the state, which produce an estimated 1,500 varieties of fish, mollusks, and crustaceans for food markets as well as for sporting, conservation, and educational purposes.
Sales of Florida aquaculture products, as reported by the USDA, totaled approximately $75 million in 2005, $68.8 million in 2012, and $71.6 million in 2018. Based on the data, Florida ranked 9th in the nation for total overall aquaculture value in 2018, down slightly from 6th place in 2013 and 7th place in 2005, indicating a weakening sector economy.
Moreover, total cargo units handled by Florida’s ports reached 114.25 million tons in 2023, a 1.5 percent rise from 2022, while the number of cruise passengers climbed to 19.4 million, marking a 3.1 percent compound annual growth rate since 2010. Per the Council’s latest Economic Impact Study, it was found that the state’s 16 ports, through cargo and cruise activities, supported 900,000 jobs in Florida with an economic contribution value of $117.6 billion, or 13.3 percent of the state’s total GDP.