By coupling knowledge of oceanographic processes and phytoplankton responses to light and nutrient availability, we estimate a total potential new (sensu Dugdale and Goering,1967) production for the North Sea of approximately 15.6 million tons C per year. In a typical year, about 40% of this production will be associated with the spring bloom in the surface waters of the seasonally stratified (central and northern) North Sea. About 40% is predicted to occur in the coastal waters while the remaining new production is predicted to take place in sub-surface chlorophyll peaks occuring in association with fronts in the North Sea during summer month. By considering the inter-annual variation in heat, wind and nutrient availability (light and tidal energy input are treated as non-varying from year to year), the inter-annual variability in the new production occuring in these different regions is estimated. The analysis indicates that new production in the coastal waters may have increased by about 25% in recent decades.