It’s a first visit to Alaska for the global event, which runs from 18-21 September and is hosted by the Marine Technology Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The theme of the conference is “Our Harsh and Fragile Ocean” and it will focus on how modern technology and traditional knowledge can combine to tackle such issues as climate change, increased Arctic vessel traffic, energy extraction and the new blue economy.
“Globally, the oceans are being viewed as the last economic frontier. There is huge potential to develop the oceans in a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable way and our hope is that Alaska becomes a leader in this blue economy,” said Joel Cladouhos, director of Alaska’s Ocean Cluster Initiative, a collaboration of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, the College of Fisheries and Oceans Science at UAF and the Global Entrepreneurs Institute at UAA.
Ocean Clusters are modeled on a concept which began in Iceland in the 1970s and they aim to create an economic ecosystem to connect startup people with a common goal.
“We’re all familiar with marine ecosystems, but an economic ecosystem involves innovators and entrepreneurs and educators to create a foundation to grow businesses, innovate new products and grow from the bottom up,” Cladouhos explained.
Blue growth, which is defined as the application and commercialization of new technologies and innovation to fisheries and marine science and engineering, is said to be the one of the fastest growing global sectors and is expected to triple in value to $3 trillion by 2030 (measured as marine-based industrial contribution to economic output and employment).
For Alaska, the blue economy includes traditional sectors such as fisheries, oil and gas, mariculture, coastal tourism and transportation, as well as new arenas such as robotics, biofuels, undersea drones, renewable energy and marine biotechnology.
The ocean visionaries forecast that such blue ventures for Alaska would boost the state’s economy by 50,000 jobs and $3 billion in wages by 2040.
“Alaska holds over half the nation’s coastline and a third of the US exclusive economic zone. There is huge potential to develop our oceans in a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable way,” Cladouhos said. “It’s time for Alaska to get on board with the blue economy because it has the potential to be bigger than oil and gas if we have the appropriate long-term strategy.”
A conference presentation on growing Alaska’s blue economy is set for September 21 from 1:30- 3pm and will be streamed via Zoom video.