Canadian and Global Community Unite Around Ocean in June

By: Kendra MacDonald, CEO,                                  Canada’s Ocean Supercluster

June has been a very busy ocean month. It has been so amazing to get out and meet people in the ocean community all over the world after many, many months of zoom calls and virtual connections. A virtual coffee chat does not compare to the ability to sit outside next to the water in Lisbon and talk about the future of ocean. The past few weeks have had many highlights: World Ocean Day at the United Nations in New York, the H20 conference in Halifax, the Green Marine conference in Montreal, the Global Innovation Summit in Estoril, and the United Nations Decade of Ocean conference in Lisbon, just to name a few – and that is just June. I wanted to share some takeaways although given the many activities, it was hard to narrow it down to just a few.

1. We have a story to tell:  The world is interested in what’s happening in Canada. We have created incredible momentum in the last few years and the well-attended Canadian conferences the OSC team has participated in this past month has been a great indicator of that energy. As an example, there were so many companies with so much exciting work on display at booths at H2O followed by a sold-out showcase event at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship’s (COVE) Demo Day. These are the kinds of activities that help feed into the momentum Canada is building, and a demonstration of what is possible when we work together. It is this approach that got us invited to speak at the World Ocean Day event in New York alongside Salesforce and the United Nations, sharing Canada’s contribution to the revitalization of the ocean economy.  While there, I had the opportunity to listen to Sylvia Earle, the first woman to become Chief Scientist of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), share her perspectives and reinforce the message that there is no green without blue – something we certainly believe at the OSC. We were also chosen as one of fifty global Ocean Titans as part of a new World Ocean Council docuseries featuring the amazing projects of some of our member companies, and launched on June 29 by Reuters. It was with a whole lot of pride and optimism that I shared Canada’s ocean story at several panels over the last month on topics ranging from innovation to climate to coastal communities.

2. We need to increase our ambition: While we should be proud of all that we have accomplished, our ocean economy in Canada remains a small contributor to our overall GDP. While listening to the many announcements and reconnecting with stakeholders around the world, it was evident that the rest of the world is also moving fast and, in many cases, with more investment and more focus. Hydrogen, small modular reactors, carbon capture, storage and use, wave energy, seaweed products, regenerative marine tourism and the list goes on – there were many stories of cutting-edge technologies and solutions being built around the world and an increasing number of programs to make those solutions more accessible. What was clear at the UN Decade events, and in listening to speakers like John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate of the United States and Peter Thomson, UNSG’s Special Envoy for the Ocean is that we need to move faster if we want to be leaders in the blue economy, and save our ocean and our planet. We need to continue to build awareness of Canada’s ocean opportunity; engage everyone in the ocean conversation including bringing Indigenous knowledge and Western knowledge together; connect coastal communities; attract more technology companies to the ocean economy; and scale solutions.  And, we need recognize that in order to achieve emissions reduction targets on land, we must achieve them in the ocean.

3. There is much more opportunity for global collaboration: We are getting increasing interest in building partnerships as are other organizations in Canada’s ocean ecosystem: Oceans Advance signed a memorandum of understanding with nine clusters around the world in Portugal; COVE signed an agreement for a scale up program with Innovate UK; and both the OSC and Marine Renewables Canada signed agreements with the European Leaders in Blue Energy consortium – all in the month of June. How do we maximize the value of these partnerships to the benefit of our member companies? How can member companies leverage international relationships to scale more quickly?

It is an exciting time for Canada’s ocean economy and I am thrilled to be a part of it.  The OSC team works tirelessly every day to continue to change the way we do business in the ocean across Canada and build an ocean economy that is increasingly digital, sustainable, and inclusive. These themes resonate around the world. It is, however, a time where the ocean is also facing unprecedented challenges and our ability to tackle those challenges quickly and in a coordinated way around the world is tied to the quality of our future life on the planet and the health of the planet itself. If in your work you are looking for a way to make the world a better place, I would strongly encourage you to explore opportunities in the ocean, if you haven’t already.  I am re-energized with the level of conversation and interest in the work we are doing and look forward to the next steps on the OSC journey.