Commercial and research activities tied to the ocean — such as boating, tourism, ferries, fishing and wind farms — could create as many as 60,000 jobs on Long Island by 2051, according to a new report.
The economic sector, called the "blue economy” by the report’s authors, consists of six components: aquaculture/fisheries, marine research, tourism/recreation, maritime transportation, offshore wind farms and marine construction.
Together, they accounted for 67,700 jobs in 2021, or 5% of the total employment in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Over the next three decades, that could grow to 127,800 jobs if elected officials and business executives support the necessary policy changes and increased investment to spur the sector’s growth, states the report, which was commissioned by nextLI, the research and public discussion initiative of Newsday’s Opinion pages.
WHAT TO KNOW
- Long Island's "blue economy" consists of 67,700 jobs at businesses and research institutions involved in tourism, fishing, maritime transportation, marine construction and offshore wind farms, according to a new report commissioned by a Newsday department.
- The economic sector could add more than 60,000 jobs by 2051 if investments are made and policies are changed, according to the report's author, HR&A Advisors Inc. in Manhattan.
- About 35% of jobs in the sector paid between $90,300 and $105,700 per year, on average, in 2021.
The 73-page report was produced over six months by the consulting firm HR&A Advisors Inc. in Manhattan and paid for with a grant from the Rauch Foundation, which recently moved to Manhattan after decades in Garden City. The report is available at next.newsday.com.
“We define the blue economy as any economic activity that happens within bodies of water or near the coast,” said Shuprotim Bhaumik, the HR&A partner who oversaw the report. “This includes very traditional things which have been on Long Island for hundreds of years like aquaculture, as well as emergent industries, like offshore wind farms.”
He continued, “We see opportunity for Long Island to create a lot of good-paying jobs, to address the existential threat of climate change by cleaning up our waterways and increasing economic output and tax revenue.”
We see opportunity for Long Island to create a lot of good-paying jobs ...
—Shuprotim Bhaumik, the HR&A partner who oversaw the 'blue economy' report.
Credit: HR&A Advisors Inc.
Bhaumik acknowledged that more than 60% of the blue economy’s jobs are and will be in tourism/recreation, where salaries averaged $36,900 per year in 2021. But positions in maritime transportation, marine research and construction, and wind farms paid between $90,300 and $105,700, on average, in 2021.
While tourism/recreation would see the biggest employment gain by 2051 — 33,300 jobs — marine research, wind farms and maritime transportation could add 9,300, 7,660 and 6,000 jobs, respectively, he said.
“A significant amount of the blue economy’s future jobs is going to be high paying and offer upward mobility, particularly for minorities, if there is the right level of training programs,” said Bhaumik, who lives in Syosset.
More than six in 10 of the region's blue economy jobs are in Suffolk County, according to the report.
The sector’s growth potential stems from multiple factors:
- Long Island’s 1,198 miles of coastline, the third-longest in the Northeast after New Jersey and Massachusetts
- Close proximity to more than three-quarters of the lease areas for offshore wind farms
- Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and aquaculture programs from Cornell Cooperative Extension and Suffolk's Marine Environmental Learning Center
- The popularity of local beaches, cruises, wildlife tours, seaside resorts and other tourist attractions
Still, the sector’s long-term vitality is dependent on additional government funding and policy remedies for water pollution from leaky septic tanks and the shortage of affordable housing, the report states.
Among the report’s 10 recommended actions, five would ideally take place within the next two years. They are:
- Allocate additional funding for marine research
- Open business incubators
- Establish worker training programs
- Help manufacturers convert their production lines to turn out components for the offshore wind industry
- Enable increased production of shellfish and kelp
Matt Cohen, president and CEO of the Long Island Association, said, “Our region can capitalize on our unique geography to create jobs and spur growth by continuing to invest in new technologies and our environment.”
But he said local leaders must work together to “streamline regulations and address the challenges that permeate across our entire economy, including housing, infrastructure, water quality and workforce training.”
The report will be publicly released on Thursday at the LIA’s “The Future of Business on the East End” event in Riverhead.
Kevin Law, chairman of Empire State Development, the state’s primary business-aid agency, and a partner in the East Setauket-based developer Tritec Real Estate Co., said the report shows the importance of environmental cleanup projects to economic growth.
“Businesses will not thrive in an area that’s polluted,” he said. “It’s a wise investment to protect our groundwater and surface waters because it strengthens our economy … Long Island has to continue to be a place where people want to live, work and play.”
Law and others predicted that the construction and operation of offshore wind farms will be a boon for local marine-construction and maritime-transportation businesses that have struggled in recent years. “There are going to be numerous opportunities for existing businesses and new businesses,” Law said.