Look to the sea

The ocean is New­found­land and Labrador’s past, present and very much its fu­ture

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - BUSINESS - Mark Vaugh­an­jack­son Mark Vaughan-jack­son is The Tele­gram’s busi­ness ed­i­tor. He can be reached at mark.vaughan-jack­son @thetele­gram.com.

What do you think of when you hear the words “ocean econ­omy”?

If you’re from New­found­land and Labrador, you might think of some­thing like the fish­ery. Oil and gas maybe? You’d be par­tially right.

Of course, ocean econ­omy refers to ev­ery­thing that goes on that re­lates to the ocean. So yes, the fish­ery was the main­stay of New­found­land and Labrador’s ocean econ­omy for cen­turies. And since first oil in the 1990s, oil and gas has be­come, by far, the big­gest driver in our pro­vin­cial econ­omy — ocean or other­wise. But the ocean econ­omy is a big­ger pic­ture.

A much big­ger pic­ture. The only prob­lem is a lot of peo­ple don’t think in terms of an over­all ocean econ­omy. In­stead, they fo­cus on one par­tic­u­lar chunk at a time, be it the fish­ery, oil and gas or ma­rine trans­porta­tion, for ex­am­ple.

But look­ing to our eco­nomic fu­ture, it’s im­por­tant for more peo­ple to be look­ing at that big­ger pic­ture.

That’s why Oceansad­vance did a study ear­lier this year on just how big N.L.’S to­tal ocean econ­omy is. And it’s eye-open­ing read­ing.

Oceansad­vance has representatives from the re­search, aca­demic, in­dus­try and gov­ern­ment fields work­ing to foster ocean tech­nol­ogy. It com­mis­sioned Caron Hawco of the Caron Hawco Group to re­search and crunch the num­bers.

New­found­land and Labrador’s to­tal ocean econ­omy is worth $16 bil­lion a year and em­ploys 37,000 peo­ple — that makes it the big­gest sin­gle ocean econ­omy in Canada.

Big­ger than B.C., which I’d as­sumed would have a big­ger ocean econ­omy than ours, just given the size dif­fer­ence. In fact, N.L. rep­re­sents more than half — 53 per cent — of Canada’s to­tal ocean econ­omy.

I think that’s worth a cer­tain amount of pride. But it’s hard to be proud of some­thing if you don’t re­al­ize it in the first place.

Part of the rea­son Oceansad­vance un­der­took this study was to quan­tify our ocean econ­omy. Now they plan to spread the word, through all lev­els of gov­ern­ment, in­dus­try, the R&D sec­tor, academia and the pub­lic.

Be­cause the more peo­ple who re­al­ize the breadth and depth of our ocean econ­omy, and the cal­i­bre of our ocean re­search, in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy, the bet­ter po­si­tioned we are to ex­pand it.

“I think the in­dus­tries op­er­ate in si­los, so as a re­sult, you don’t have a lot of that cross-con­nec­tion go­ing on,” Hawco said. “The fish­ing in­dus­try does talk to oil and gas, but it’s at a pe­riph­eral level. I think with re­cent days we’re see­ing that they’re all start­ing to come to­gether to start to do more col­lab­o­ra­tion and it gives them a rea­son to start talk­ing about the big­ger pic­ture.”

That fits with the move to­wards fos­ter­ing more co-oper­a­tive, cross-sec­tor projects in ocean tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment and re­search.

Oceansad­vance is also work­ing with the Ocean Learn­ing Part­ner­ship to get the mes­sage out to schools that the ocean econ­omy has a lot to of­fer.

“It’s to get kids ex­cited about ocean tech­nol­ogy, ocean in­dus­tries,” Oceansad­vance CEO Cathy Ho­gan said.

“Part of my rea­son for be­ing ex­cited about this is get­ting it out to par­ents and teach­ers, get­ting them ex­cited about the fact that hav­ing a life now in ocean tech is not what your grand­fa­ther did 50 years ago.”

Hawco and Ho­gan hope to start a con­ver­sa­tion lo­cally, na­tion­ally and glob­ally, about how strong New­found­land and Labrador is in the ocean econ­omy sphere and how much stronger it can be­come.

“I think it will build our rep­u­ta­tion and our brand through­out At­lantic Canada, across the coun­try and in­ter­na­tion­ally,” Ho­gan said. “We’re na­tional lead­ers in this area, so why wouldn’t we build on this? It seems an ob­vi­ous area for growth in the prov­ince,” Hawco added. Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD) stats from 2010 show the global ocean econ­omy was worth US$1.5 tril­lion and rep­re­sented about 31 mil­lion di­rect, full-time jobs. By 2030 those num­bers are pro­jected to more than dou­ble, to US$3 tril­lion and more than 40 mil­lion full-time equiv­a­lent jobs.

Now, ap­ply that to this prov­ince. If we’re cur­rently see­ing $16 bil­lion and 37,000 jobs from the ocean econ­omy, it’s not in­con­ceiv­able that by 2030 we’ll see a com­men­su­rate rise, too. And for a prov­ince con­stantly faced with the need to di­ver­sify its econ­omy, we’d be fool­hardy not to rec­og­nize the op­por­tu­ni­ties off our coasts.

But the first step is spreading the word. New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans aren’t known for run­ning around hoot­ing “We’re No.1! We’re No.1!”

But when it comes to be­ing Canada’s ocean econ­omy powerhouse, and be­ing rec­og­nized around the world as among the best when it comes to ocean tech R&D, maybe a lit­tle more pride wouldn’t go astray.

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