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Gloucester to host summit on innovation in the maritime economy

Posted by Terri Ogan  January 22, 2013 05:28 PM

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When most people think of Gloucester, Mass., they think of The Perfect Storm, whale watches and tuna fishing. In an effort to teach residents about diversifying the waterfront and growing the Gloucester economy, the city is hosting the 2nd Annual Maritime Summit.

The one-day conference aims to show the community that there are other jobs and industries, like marine biotechnology and marine science, that do not solely rely on the fishing. The event will be held on Thursday February 7 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cruiseport on Rowe Square in Gloucester.

“It is a tie in to our overall economic development plan for the city, which seeks to diversify the economy in ways that are compatible with our core industry, which is the fishing industry,” said Mayor Carolyn Kirk. “The question we’re asking ourselves is how can these port assets be used in other jobs?”

According to Sarah Garcia, harbor planning director, it will be a day-long mix of key speakers talking about the newest discoveries on the ocean and the new ways people are using ocean research. This includes technology to tag and track Bluefin tuna, as well as finding medicines that come from unusual creatures of the sea.

The Maritime Summit is all about finding opportunities in the new ocean economy.

“We all are worried about long term, what’s happening with the sea level rising and how do we get more out of fresh fish we catch,” Garcia said. “We want jobs on the waterfront. The heart of the city has always been going down to that one mile of working waterfront and going out on the water to make a living and these are the new uses of the industry. We’ve maintained industries and we will, but how do we diversify the economy?”

Unlike last year’s summit, this year’s event will feature a list of about eight exhibitors that will showcase the future of the ocean. Among them are Ocean Genome Legacy and Boston Harbor Cruises (BHC). Ocean Genome Legacy created a barcode scanning tool that shows people where their seafood has come from and BHC will be showing two research vessels, both of which are over 100 feet long. They’ll also have a robotics and ocean-mapping exhibit.

As of now, the summit has 75 people signed up to attend and can take a maximum of 100 people.

“People talk about the blue economy, the wired ocean, what does it represent?” Kirk said. “Last year we brought together an array of private companies and non profits and educational institutions that each gave a snapshot of what they do in an ocean economy. We’re setting the table of a broader economic vision.”

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