Blue economy sectors

The economy of Canary Islands relies in the service sector, which accounts for 84.9% of the gross value added (GVA). Activities related to tourism have an especial importance (Instituto Canario de Estadística – ISTAC, 2019).

The archipelago’s beaches, climate and important natural attractions, especially Maspalomas in Gran Canaria and Teide National Park and Mount Teide (a World Heritage Site) in Tenerife (rising to 3,718 metres, the highest point on Spanish soil and the third tallest volcano in the world measured from its base on the ocean floor), make it a major tourist destination with over 12 million visitors per year, especially Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.

Lately, there has been a public discussion about overtourism, mainly in cities but on islands as well. The online travel magazine Mypics states: “Resources are scarce on islands. The ecological balance in nature is even more sensitive than in the city. In several years it has been reported that drinking water has become scarce. The sewage and garbage disposal for the many people on the islands is a problem. They are inhabited only by relatively few natives. The sewage and garbage disposal are adjusted to them and of course also to tourists. However, when seven to thirty times the amount of waste and sewage is produced in the season, it is no longer manageable. Waste water is discharged untreated into the sea.” Adding climate change to this scenario makes the islands even more vulnerable.

The expenditures are distributed to accommodation (31%), transport (except flights) (10%), food and drink (20%), souvenirs 7%), and leisure (tours, sports, cultural events) (32%) (Tourist profile. Canary Islands, 2017).

The choice of this destination by tourists is predominantly influenced by prevailing climate conditions. Other relevant impact factors of respective traveler decisions are given by available regional possibilities to relax, the availability and quality of beaches and individual landscapes features. In general, the two big islands (Tenerife and Gran Canaria) offer both beach and nature activities. Fuerteventura is famous for beaches, the dunes, and sea sports. La Palma and La Gomera are well-known for their nature and forests. Lanzarote is famous for its cultural heritage (gastronomy: vineyard) and its exacerbated volcanic landscapes. The later attribute is also predominant in El Hierro.

In the Canary Islands there are mainly fish farms (seabass, Senegalese sole and seabream). The most important species in the Canary Islands are seabream and European seabass, which represent more than 95% of the aquaculture production in the islands and 22% of the total production of these species in Spain. In 2017 were obtained in Gran Canaria the first productions of penaeid shrimps, but due to the needed land, their development will not be highlighted in our region.

The total production of fisheries and aquaculture registered in Canarian first-sale ports reached 7810 tons of fish in 2017, with a total value of 43 million EUR. The former represents 36.09% of the fresh fisheries production in the islands, while 63.91% of the production corresponds to fishing. However, aquaculture products represent most of the total production value (58.10%).

Currently, there are 31 entities authorised as first-sale points for fresh fisheries products, and 17 for frozen fisheries products. More than half of the total fresh fisheries production is landed in Tenerife, particularly as regards pelagic fish and crustaceans. Gran Canaria is very significant for landings of demersal fish and molluscs. In Lanzarote pelagic landings are dominant, whereas La Palma and El Hierro have important parts of the crustacean landings.

The Canary Islands are not self-sustaining, so they depend on maritime transport. This sector plays a significant role in the archipelago’s economy, not only because of the islands’ dependence on the outside in terms of goods’ imports and their condition of outermost region, which drives costs up, but also because of the strategic location of the islands, which are located in the middle of the transatlantic routes.

In the year 2019, the passenger traffic amounted to almost 7 million people, while total freight traffic (including goods loaded, unloaded and transshipped) reached 39,667,153 tons. The Port of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is among the most important national maritime ports, along with the Port of Algeciras, the Port of Barcelona and the Port of Valencia. It has occupied the 100th-120th position with respect to container traffic worldwide in several occasion.

While global maritime transport of goods grows steadily with global trade, the transport of people by ship has been replaced by airplanes if it comes to going from one place to another. The only passenger ships with positive growth rates and positively growing revenues are cruise ships, a holiday activity with a rapidly growing market.

The archipelago has seven main islands, with seven independent electrical isolated electrical systems. Only Fuerteventura and Lanzarote and interconnected trough a submarine cable. The small and weak island grids pose a big challenge towards maximizing penetration of variable and intermittent RES generation, without jeopardizing grid stability, and quality and guarantee of power supply.

At the moment, the Renewable Energy covers in the Canary Islands 13% of electricity demand; but regarding the primary energy balance, it only covers 2% (Canary Islands still depend on oil derivatives around 98%. In the smaller island, El Hierro, the hydroelectric power plant was launched in 2014, with a penetration of 20% in electricity balance (but not of the total primary energy of the island). In 2016, it attained almost 40% (again, only on electricity balance); and almost 50% in 2017 (of annual electricity balance). In the first months of 2018, the plant managed to cover 60% of electricity demand, thanks to the improvements made by the technicians of ITC.

High cost of electricity generation due to the high dependence on fossil fuels are a key issue. The costs of electricity generation in the Canary Islands, 237 € / MWh (according to latest data from the National Commission of markets and competition, CNMC) are among the highest in the European electricity markets. To prevent the Canarian electric bill to be higher than the rest of the state, these extra costs are shared on the bill of all customers in the country, in other words: subsidized.

Short description

Short description

When the Europeans began to explore the islands in the late Middle Ages, they encountered several indigenous peoples living at a Neolithic level of technology. Although the prehistory of the settlement of the Canary Islands is still unclear, linguistic and...

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Local Working group

Local Working group


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