Buoying Our Nation’s Economy: The Role Of Ocean Data In Supporting The Blue Economy

2019-08-22T17:16:16+00:00 July 16, 2018|

Photo credit: Consortium for Ocean Leadership

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What It Was

The Consortium for Ocean Leadership and the IOOS Association, in conjunction with the Senate Oceans Caucus (chaired by Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)), sponsored a congressional briefing titled, “Buoying our Nation’s Economy: The Role of Ocean Data in Supporting the Blue Economy.”

Why It Matters

The ocean economy is growing, and increased ocean science can facilitate its success while ensuring the ocean remains healthy and productive. Scientific observations and data expand our ocean knowledge and should underpin decision making on the use of the ocean’s resources. Experts who depend on our ocean and coasts discussed how shared ocean observations can improve safety and prosperity.

Key Points

The blue economy is expanding. According to Rear Adm. (Ret.) Tim Gallaudet (Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), who moderated the briefing, 40 percent of the U.S. population live in coastal regions, and the growth of maritime jobs is four times higher than other sectors.

Data collected from our ocean (e.g., temperature, salinity, wave height, fish abundance) are used by those operating in the blue economy every day. Industry experts highlighted the data’s critical role in ensuring safety, generating money, and facilitating adaptation.

All experts noted that ocean observations permit smart business decisions by informing vessels and platform operators of storms so they can avoid injury to equipment, crew, or tourists. Ms. Joy Baker (Director, Port of Nome, Alaska) expressed, “consistent and reliable real-time ocean data can prevent accidents and incidents,” such as vessel collisions, and stressed the importance of timely data for remote areas of Alaska. Dr. Ruth Mullins-Perry (Shell Exploration and Production Company) pointed out that offshore operators need to be evacuated for hurricanes well in advance of people on land and emphasized that deep ocean data play a key role in extending forecasting and improving modeling.

Fisheries and tourism are prominent components of the blue economy, contributing over $108 billion annually. Ms. Leigh Habegger (Seafood Harvesters of America) celebrated ocean data’s ability to facilitate fishers’ success. She remarked that the combination of physical water data (e.g. temperature, salinity, pH) and knowing how species are connected through the ecosystem can help people “fish smarter, safer, and more sustainably.” Mr. Zack Klyver (Bar Harbor Whale Watch) agreed and further presented ocean data as powerful information that supports informed decisions and adaptability to the changing environment. He explained how knowing the locations of cool water and fish helps him ensure guests aboard his whale watch boat see the cetaceans they’ve paid to see – which keeps them and others coming back, putting money into the tourism sector of the blue economy.

Both chairs of the Senate Oceans Caucus spoke at the briefing. Senators Murkowski and Whitehouse, in their opening and closing remarks, respectively, each emphasized the ocean’s expanse, the vast resources it provides, and the role of data and science for informed decisions.


“Ocean data can create a more sustainable and balanced blue economy.” – Dr. Ruth Mullins-Perry, Shell Exploration and Production Company

“We need ocean data portals to understand the rate of change [in the environment] and a data-rich environment is key to our success and the economy.” – Mr. Zack Klyver, Bar Harbor Whale Watch

“[Fishers] cannot be safe without knowing what is going on in the water and sky.” – Ms. Leigh Habegger, Seafood Harvesters of America

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