Reflecting on a career in Canada’s ocean sector By: Glenn Blackwood, Vice President, Memorial University (Marine Institute)

Our ocean is a mighty and powerful thing. It’s a resource that is critical to our livelihoods and our existence. Whether you live in Newfoundland and Labrador like I do, or any coastal community in Canada, you will also know our ocean can be challenging but also one of our biggest opportunities. Every day, there are new possibilities uncovered in the ocean and for me it has been an incredible journey to be at the heart of much of that activity.

I have spent both my academic and professional careers focused on the marine sector and the advancement of research and development in the ocean. I have seen significant transition, growth, and innovation, as well as new ocean industries emerge through the work of people whose connection and commitment to the ocean runs deep. As Vice President, Memorial University (Marine Institute), I have been proud to see the evolution and growth of our industry-driven academic and research programs over the years.  I am proud to have led the establishment of a new School of Ocean Technology (2007) and two new research centres in Applied Ocean Technology and in Fisheries Ecosystem Research (2010).  Likewise, the building of the Marine Base in Holyrood to be the portal to the sea has been a major initiative in support of the oceans sector.  I have seen first-hand the benefits that ocean development is bringing to our province and beyond, and also the important role of the growing national network of academic institutions and ocean focused organizations across the country who also play a key role in the future of Canada’s marine sectors.

While working in an academic capacity, I also have worked closely with those in industry and personally spend a great deal of my own recreational time on the water. The value of bringing together different perspectives to do great things (and different things) in the ocean is something that I encouraged in my work at the Marine Institute, and also what drew me to serve on the Board of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster and on the Executive Council of the Ocean Frontier Institute. The ocean has helped shape our economy and our identity in the past, and I believe it will be even more foundational in our future economic prosperity and our ability to lead the global development of the 72 per cent of our planet that is covered by water.

If we look at the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador for example, this an industry that has played a vital role in rural and coastal regions in the past and is transforming to meet today’s market demand. Today, the fishery is more than a $1 billion industry to the province that can help us meet the call for sustainable protein world-wide, and with a continued focus in aquaculture, farmed fish can also help bring our province to the forefront of this opportunity. While seemingly traditional ocean activity, fishing and aquaculture is becoming increasingly digital, creating and adopting some of the most advanced technologies to fish smarter as good stewards of the ocean. I consider myself to be quite fortunate to have been at the table for much of this advancement for the discussions, collaboration, and launch of new initiatives and projects that have transformed our fishery and aquaculture sectors over the past 40 years.

I have also witnessed and worked with the development of the oil and gas industry since the 1980s and have seen the transformative economic benefits this has brought to our province and in our country.  The oil and gas sector has greatly increased our understanding of the ocean and has invested heavily in ocean technology and ocean engineering which has benefited all users of the ocean.
Ocean technology cuts across all ocean sectors, and we need to continue to build on existing and new technology to help understand, grow, and benefit from our ocean. Ocean technology advancements like ocean mapping, underwater robotics, and the digitization of vessels help us better understand and operate in the ocean in a responsible way. As Canada’s largest and most comprehensive education and applied research institute for the ocean sector, the Marine Institute plays a unique role in bridging the gap between fundamental research and the commercialization of ocean technology.

In closing, I believe the future of our ocean sector is bright and I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to everyone that I have worked with over the years. You inspire me and I wish you all fair winds and following seas!

Glenn Blackwood
Vice President, Memorial University/Marine Institute
Director, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster