Marine Biotechnology: An emerging field

marine biotechnology

Our earth’s 29 per cent is land area, whereas the remaining 71 per cent is water. Obviously, such a large area of water can’t be devoid of life, so, the organisms that truly live and survive in water are called aquatic organisms. Marine water refers to salty water or brackish water that is not drinkable. It comprises a whole ecosystem that is natural and open type. The increase in the human population on land has put tremendous pressure on the fishing industry. With the help of new tools and techniques, there has been a substantial increase in fish production both freshwater and marine. Just like White Revolution and Green Revolution to produce enough milk and food grains for all, this has led to Blue Revolution for enhanced fish availability. Therefore, when we talk of Marine Biotechnology also referred to as Blue Biotechnology, we consider aquatic diversity, of course not just fishes.

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marine biotechnology

Image: Morgan Bennett-Smith

The European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) has defined biotechnology as ‘the integrated use of biochemistry, microbiology, cell biology and engineering sciences in order to achieve technological applications of capabilities of microorganisms, cells and their parts thereof. Thus, marine biotechnology is the use of marine bio-resources and biotechnology to produce new products and processes.

The richness of the species and diversity of organisms in aquatic life makes marine biotechnology to be an important field of research. This terrific biodiversity and mysterious lifeforms provide us with varied, useful and innovative products or processes.


The methodology for the exploration of marine bio-resources is :

  1. Data analysis: This includes the use of certain biotechnological techniques like mass spectroscopy as well as bio-informatics for analysing data.
  2. Extraction: Here, several extraction methods are applied to obtain crude extracts.
  3. Isolation and Purification: These crude extracts are isolated and need to be purified before the examination.
  4. Structure Elucidation and Bioactivity Screening: Now, the product is tested for its bioactivity and structural analysis is performed.


Within the marine environment, there is a wide variety of living organisms from bacteria to eukaryotes as well as unique chemical compounds which are of great importance to medicine, nutrition, cosmetics, agriculture and other industries. In fact, the marine environment encompasses the resources through biological and chemical biodiversity among all types of ecosystems. Marine biotechnology is using renewable marine lifeforms such as fish, algae or macro-organisms or micro-organisms to produce a very diverse variety of new products.


Marine water refers to salty water or brackish water that is not drinkable. It comprises a whole aquatic ecosystem that is natural and open type. Based on the distance from the coastline and the amount of light available underwater, aquatic habitats are divided into the following regions :

Littoral zone

It is a shallow coastal zone where light is available up to the bottom. Producers are found throughout in this zone.

Limnetic zone

This zone is an open water zone that is away from the shore, up to the depth to which light can penetrate.

Aphotic zone

This is after the limnetic zone and is named so because the light does not reach this zone.

Benthic zone

In deep seas, the benthic region is in perpetual darkness. The most common organisms here are luminescent fishes. Red algae are found in this region and can survive in the absence of light.


Image source: Satyam, K., & Thiruchitrambalam, G. (2018). Habitat ecology and diversity of rocky shore fauna. In Biodiversity and climate change adaptation in tropical islands (pp. 187-215). Academic Press.

These are the reasons for varying survival conditions for aquatic life forms, so this forms the very basis for the study of marine biotechnology. Biotechnological applications are of utmost importance in the exploration of the hidden potential of marine lifeforms. Marine Biotechnology, therefore encompasses the sectors of fisheries and aquaculture due to the fishing and extraction of the bio-resources. But it sets itself apart from these sectors by developing new products and services using a variety of marine lifeforms, therefore becoming a young sector of research.


Within aquaculture, biotechnological advances can offer solutions to several problems. One of the best examples can is that some fishes don’t spawn spontaneously when placed under captive conditions, so, the fishes are harvested and the fish gonadotropin are extracted from the pituitary gland in the form of crude extracts. This approach is inefficient and tedious, so recombinant DNA technology has now enabled large-scale production of purified fish hormones for aquaculture use.


Marine biotechnology contributes to the protection and management of the marine environment. It also secures human health and well-being, sustainable alternative sources of energy, sustainable supply of high-quality and healthy food. Such advances have led to the discovery and development of a range of advanced medicines, therapies, diagnostics, and vaccines. Some examples that are worth to be mentioned are medicines for diseases like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer etc. Also, there are bio-economical improvements in veterinary products and aquaculture.

Marine biotechnology has also enabled the use of enzymes for more efficient food processing and improved breeding of plants to obtain desired characteristics. Employment opportunities partly overlap with the Aquaculture sector, as often marine biotechnology companies have their own aqua-cultural fields of macro or microalgae.


Marine Biotechnology

Image source: Abid, F., Zahid, M. A., Abedin, Z. U., Nizami, S. B., Abid, M. J., Kazmi, S. Z. H., … & Gul, A. (2018). Omics approaches in marine biotechnology: The treasure of ocean for human betterments. In Omics Technologies and Bio-Engineering (pp. 47-61). Academic Press.



Marine Biotechnology secures alternative sources of renewable energy because it uses algae to produce biofuel. The lipid is extracted from algal biomass and is converted into biodiesel by transesterification. Marine resources like macroalgae, microalgae, seaweed, and fungi are extensively diverse to use as renewable sources for biofuel production. This helps in the following :

  1. Excess demand for fuels
  2. The subsequent decrease in the impact of global warming
  3. Establishment of alternative environment-friendly energy


Marine plants, animals and microbes produce compounds that have the potential as pharmaceuticals. The enormous variability of the species has led to research into new bioactive substances extracted from these organisms. This provides extraordinary industrial application potential and innovations in pharmaceuticals. All those bioactive compounds obtained from marine organisms that can be used in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries are also extremely interesting and promising.

The enormous pool of biodiversity in the marine ecosystem is an excellent natural reservoir for acquiring an inventory of enzymes. Many sponges produce bioactive compounds with important potential applications as medical drugs.


Marine compounds used to make natural colours and perfumes pave the way for the cosmetic industry. Marine biotechnology can be incorporated into skincare and make-up products. Their drug-like benefits produce pharmaceutical hybrids in which bioactive ingredients are added.


Seaweeds have traditionally been used in Asia and Northern Europe as food ingredients, and are recently becoming more popular throughout European cuisine. Fish meal is characterized by high protein contents, digestible energy and balanced composition of essential amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. Whereas, fish oil is mostly used in animal feed formulations to raise aquaculture and terrestrial livestock. The discovery of single-cell proteins is the root of future food products.


Marine Biotechnology is one of the youngest and of course very explorative fields of research. The mysterious lifeforms with captivating potentials can be found exclusively underwater. We have heard of plants are green because they contain chlorophyll but can you imagine animals that have chlorophyll? Yes, they have. And one best-suited example is Elysia chlorotica . Not only this but there are many such untouched fields and undiscovered species that are treasures of the marine ecosystem. Thus, marine biotechnology is an exotic research domain.

Thanks for reading!

Team MBD

Learn more: Marine Biotechnology | Blue Career Guide (


  1. Rotter, A., Barbier, M., Bertoni, F., Bones, A. M., Cancela, M. L., Carlsson, J., … & Vasquez, M. I. (2021). The essentials of marine biotechnology. Frontiers In marine science, 158.

2 Responses

  1. Vishal says:

    Nice work

  2. HS says:

    Informative content 👍

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