Integrating Two-Eyed Seeing in the Blue Economy

Integrating Two-Eyed Seeing in the Blue Economy:
Reflections from the Blue Generation During World Ocean’s Week
By: Stephanie Hurlburt, Indigenous Program Lead, Clear Seas

As an Indigenous Program Lead at Clear Seas, I had the privilege of bringing participants from our Indigenous Career Pivot Program and Indigenous Internship Program to World Ocean’s Week in New York. Supported by funding from Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, we came to New York to join the Blue Generation, a group of 35 early career ocean stewards from over a dozen countries with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Collaborating with experts in ocean research and conservation during this event deepened my understanding of the challenges our oceans face due to climate change. It also made me realize that it is only through collective innovation and using the Two-Eyed Seeing approach envisioned by Mi’kmaq Elder Albert Marshall that we can overcome these obstacles.

The Blue Economy offers many career paths. From marine biologists studying ecosystems to data scientists analyzing large datasets and engineers creating innovative solutions for renewable energy, the opportunities are endless. Through our sessions, we learned about the diverse jobs available in the marine industry but what makes these careers fascinating is their interconnectedness. For example, data collected by marine scientists can shape fisheries management policies and advancements in artificial intelligence technology improve climate predictions through oceanographic modeling. These connections foster a collaborative environment where professionals from different fields come together to tackle the complex challenges our oceans face. This is precisely why the Blue Generation holds such significance.

As part of the programming for World Ocean’s Week, Titouan Bernicot shared his inspiring story with us. Growing up on a remote South Pacific Island, Bernicot’s deep connection with the ocean and coral reefs led him to found Coral Gardeners at the age of 18 in 2017. With a dedicated team of over 30 members, Coral Gardeners has already planted 30,000 corals in French Polynesia and aim to plant one million corals worldwide by 2025. Further, they build capacity by empowering local communities to become coral gardeners. Through his organization, he not only focuses on reef restoration efforts but also raises community awareness and provides innovation development through their labs. Bernicot’s story resonates with our Indigenous Programs as we likewise strive to create sustainable career pathways and empower communities.

While the growth of the Blue Economy and the accompanying job creation is exciting, it also raises concerns. As society increasingly recognizes the economic potential of our oceans and coastal resources, it is crucial to balance this growth with the conservation efforts of Indigenous people whose communities are intertwined with the ocean to address and mitigate climate change. Through my participation with the Blue Generation cohort, I witnessed the critical yet often overlooked role Indigenous voices have in shaping policies concerning our waters. Indigenous communities possess a deep-rooted connection to the ocean, and their knowledge and perspectives are invaluable when it comes to understanding and safeguarding our marine environments.

In the context of the Blue Economy, embracing Two-Eyed Seeing is of paramount importance. This means valuing both Indigenous and Western knowledge about the ocean. Indigenous communities have a deep understanding of the ocean’s cycles, species interdependence and the importance of conservation. This knowledge is passed down through generations and comes from their close relationship with marine environments. On the other hand, Western approaches, like scientific research and data analysis from disciplines such as marine biology and oceanography, provide important insights into ocean ecosystems and human impacts. By recognizing and combining these perspectives, we can more effectively tackle the challenges of ocean conservation and sustainability.

As I reflect on my time in the Blue Generation Program, it becomes evident that embracing the principles of Two-Eyed Seeing is essential for creating a sustainable blue economy that benefits Indigenous communities and protects the health of our waters. By fostering collaboration and integrating Indigenous knowledge, we can work together towards marine career paths that benefit everyone and safeguard our valuable ocean living networks. I was grateful for the opportunity to share some insights from our Indigenous Programs with the Blue Generation group, in the hopes of emphasizing the significance of creating inclusive and fulfilling career paths for Indigenous people and in turn, empowering Indigenous communities. It is essential that we bridge the existing gap and give due recognition to Indigenous voices in shaping the future of our oceans.

Stephanie is a member of the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation and Indigenous Program Lead at Clear Seas.