With the world's longest ocean coastline, Canada is surrounded by a remarkable resource, one that binds global environmental and business interests in innumerable ways.
From carbon dioxide absorption to temperature regulation to the fact that 90% of our goods are shipped across open waters—the importance of the ocean to our ecosystems and economy can’t be overstated.
But the ways we think about and use the ocean’s wealth of resources need to be reimagined.
Kate Moran and Julie Angus know a thing or two about the ocean, and both believe Canada has the potential to become a leading blue economy by empowering new technologies, entrepreneurs, and sustainable solutions.
Angus rowed the Atlantic in 2006 before co-founding a clean-tech startup—Open Ocean Robotics—that uses autonomous boats to gather ocean data. Moran received her PhD in ocean engineering from Dalhousie on Canada’s east coast before advising the Obama Administration on matters of marine science. She now heads Ocean Networks Canada, the world’s largest and most advanced cabled ocean observatory.
Moran and Angus’s organizations have already introduced exciting technologies to map, monitor, and analyze ocean data for scientific and commercial applications. University accelerator and commercialization programs can help entrepreneurs and scientists build even more, they say, while governments can directly support the sector through procurement, as ocean tech and data becomes increasingly important to economic, environmental, and defense interests.
Canada can be a global leader in the ocean’s future. Both Angus and Moran see no better time than the present to invest in it.
1. Ensuring healthy oceans is critical to a sustainable future
The ocean absorbs 90% of the planet’s excess heat, produces over half of the world’s oxygen, and absorbs roughly 30% of the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere. Oceans are crucial for our survival and also present immense opportunities for innovation and economic growth.
2. Canada has what it takes to lead a new approach to oceans
By 2030, the global oceans economy is set to be worth US$3 trillion, according to the OECD, and Moran believes it’s likely to be worth even more. Canada has the coastline, ample technical expertise, and strong complementary know-how in areas like AI to seize economic opportunities in critical areas of negative carbon aquaculture management, ocean renewable energy infrastructure, autonomous marine technology, and net-zero marine transportation systems, Moran believes.
3. Indigenous communities have a role to play in marine sustainability
Significant swaths of Canada’s three coasts are inhabited by Indigenous communities. As proven stewards of the land, they should play a leading role in Canada’s ocean sector. Providing technology to Indigenous populations can empower communities and enhance collaboration towards a sustainable future for our country as well as our oceans.
4. We need to harvest the bounty of data the ocean holds
A stunning 70% of our planet is covered in ocean, yet 80% of it remains unexplored, unobserved, and unmapped. Technological advances mean we’re more prepared than ever to capture and analyze ocean trends. Real-time data collection can help us better understand ocean ecosystems, the effects of climate change, and help us safeguard the Arctic and curb illegal fishing.
5. Let’s attract more innovators to the marine space
Angus believes university accelerators and incubators are key to unlocking the next wave of innovation. But we also need to enable more collaboration between entrepreneurs, large industry and government. Moran and Ocean Networks Canada have already begun engaging with oil and gas companies that see the need for sustainable ocean development.
John Stackhouse is a nationally bestselling author and one of Canada’s leading voices on innovation and economic disruption. He is senior vice-president in the Office of the CEO at Royal Bank of Canada, leading the organization’s research and thought leadership on economic, technological and social change. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail and editor of Report on Business. He is a senior fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute and the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and sits on the boards of Queen’s University, the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada and the Literary Review of Canada. His latest book, "Planet Canada: How Our Expats Are Shaping the Future", explores the untapped resource of the millions of Canadians who don’t live here but exert their influence from afar.
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