Happy 2021! There are many of us who breathed a collective sigh of relief as the first day of 2021 began. While we continue to face significant challenges, there is much hope that the months ahead will start to bring greater normalcy, health and well-being, and a path to economic recovery. I am finding that this January, even more so than usual, is bringing with it many conversations about what we have learned in 2020 about ourselves, about each other and about the world around us and how to move forward while still navigating many uncertainties.
This January is an exciting one in the global ocean economy. This year marks the official start of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development which offers a common framework for countries to sustainably manage oceans. This is critically important as countries around the world, Canada included, consider their strategies for the blue economy and prepare for their role in it.
In December 2020, the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, bringing together fourteen countries with a common goal to protect the ocean, issued its ocean action agenda: Transformations for a Sustainable Ocean Economy – A vision for Production, Protection and Prosperity. As a member of this panel, our Prime Minister shared, “Having the world’s longest coastline, Canada recognizes that our economy and our well-being are deeply connected with the health of our oceans, and that we have a responsibility to protect them.”
While there are many opportunities for growth in our ocean economy, the ocean is also facing tremendous pressure. This week was another reminder of this as Fisheries and Oceans Canada released a report on rising temperatures in the deep waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence that poses a significant risk to a variety of species, and points to the kinds of the challenges we are seeing in ocean, not off in the future, but here and now.
This year will also be an important one for the Canadian ocean economy. Its priority further reinforced in the recent updated mandate letters to Federal Ministers that maintained the delivery of Canada’s Blue Economy Strategy as a key priority. I look forward to being able to support its development as the Government of Canada begins public consultations in the coming weeks.
So in amongst all this, what does 2021 look like for Canada’s Ocean Supercluster? We continue to focus on changing the way ocean business is done. We are excited to be working with organizations rolling out projects from across the country. As an industry-led organization, we have seen increased investments in key areas in 2020 that we will continue to build upon in 2021:
An increasingly digital ocean economy: developing scalable, innovative solutions to digitize ocean operations, accelerate ocean product development and increase remote and autonomous capabilities. This includes the use of sensors and autonomous vehicles to increase data collection supporting better decision making and increased safety with projects like: Ocean Vision, the very first OSC project to be announced that is heading into its second year building robotics-as-a-service, Digital Ship In Service Support, our first BC-led OSC project building digital twin capability in shipbuilding, and Digital Offshore Canada, our most recently announced project focused on digital twins in the offshore.
An increasingly sustainable ocean economy: developing solutions that provide alternative sources of energy or fuel, developing supply chains that focus on waste re-utilization and building a circular economy and reducing green house gas emissions, projects like: Ocean Aware Project that focuses on fish tracking and environmental monitoring, or the Ocean Energy Smart Grid Integration Project which provides a solution to get more communities off diesel power, or the GIT Smart Protective Coatings Project bringing to market a non-toxic, graphene-based protective coating for vessels that reduces fuel consumption and underwater radiant noise.
An increasingly inclusive ocean economy: while many of our projects create opportunities for under-represented groups, we have several projects specifically focused on increasing our knowledge of our current workforce including: Ocean Allies Project which is developing strategies to access, engage, and support greater diversity in ocean; the Indigenous Career Pivot Pilot Project which is helping mid-career Indigenous peoples pivot to a career in ocean; and the Inclusive Workforce for Arctic Ocean Technologies Project addressing the barriers faced by Inuit in remote northern communities to promote their participation in the ocean economy.
All of this project activity has attracted international interest where Canada has a key role to play in an increasingly global ocean conversation. Just this morning I had the opportunity for the first time to participate in an event hosted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry as they explore their challenges and opportunities in the blue economy. For Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, international engagement is important and certainly allows us to provide leadership not only in the global conversation on the blue economy, but also in the delivery of solutions and creating the economic benefits for Canadians that come as a result.
In 2020, we focused on building our momentum, recognizing the ocean economy would play a key role in our long-term economic recovery despite the impacts of the pandemic. In 2021, our focus will be on project impacts, and sharing our stories with all Canadians and the world. We have every reason to emerge as a leader in ocean globally and build back bluer.
CEO, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster