Oceans Caucus Foundation Discussion on Ocean Clusters and the Blue Economy


The Oceans Caucus Foundation (OCF) joined the House and Senate Oceans Caucuses in hosting a virtual panel featuring prominent subject-matter experts discussing ocean clusters and how they affect the blue economy. The panel also heard remarks from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME), who spoke on the importance of the Ocean Regional Opportunity and Innovation (Ocean ROI) Act. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) have introduced a Senate version of the bill as well. This legislation would direct the Secretary of Commerce to establish ocean clusters to strengthen the coastal communities and blue economy of the nation.

Ocean clusters serve as a valuable tool to help marine businesses, entrepreneurs, and innovators maintain sustainable ocean-based practices. These organizations, in the private and public sectors, can be essential for growing and sustaining ocean innovation. With moderation by oceans subject-matter expert Mike Conathan, four experts from across the country discussed ocean clusters and the role they play in galvanizing the blue economy.

Patrick Arnold, New England Ocean Cluster
Joshua Berger, Maritime Blue
Paula Sylvia, Port of San Diego
Ephraim Froelich, AKWA-DC

Panelists discussed the history of ocean clusters in the United States and the concerted, cross-regional effort to find greater understanding of and support for blue technology, the blue economy, and ocean clusters. These efforts have largely been led by ocean cluster leaders from four specific geographic regions, three of which were represented on the panel: the Pacific Northwest, Southern California, New England, and the Gulf of Mexico.

There was universal agreement on the value of the ‘triple helix’ approach, an approach that marries business, academia, and government efforts to foster sustainable economic growth opportunities. From there, the conversation turned to the role of government and what help can be found at the federal level. Panelists noted that the Ocean Regional Opportunity and Innovation Act is a start. From there, government support for the blue economy is invaluable; every little bit helps to get communities innovating. From funding to increasing maritime literacy in decision-makers, panelists agreed that there are many ways for the federal government to play a role.

A resounding theme of the panel was the sentiment that this work requires an all-hands-on-deck approach – it is imperative that all sectors, all corners of communities work together. Further, the blue workforce is critical to the blue economy, and workforce development is a key priority. That starts with early awareness of ocean opportunities in youth, and creating more accessible pathways into industries.

OCF thanks the House and Senate Oceans Caucuses for their continuous work on important oceans issues and for prioritizing conversations like this one. We also thank our excellent panelists for such a robust discussion on ocean clusters, and we look forward to continuing the conversation.


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