OFI leading the way in Canada's blue economy

Oct 2nd, 2017

By Susan Flanagan

Memorial and OFI leading the way in Canada's blue economy.
OFI leading the way in Canada's blue economy

One year ago, the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) launched with an unprecedented $220 million in funding from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund and various private and public-sector organizations.

With the historic announcement came Dr. Paul Snelgrove’s expectation that Memorial would play a major role in the joint research venture with Dalhousie University and the University of Prince Edward Island.

Dr. Snelgrove, of Memorial’s Department of Ocean Sciences and the associate scientific director of OFI, says he is more than pleased with the institute’s progress.

“We want Canada to be a leader in the blue economy and Memorial is making this happen,” he said.

Collaborative approach

Addressing the negative impacts of changing atmospheric conditions and ecosystems and understanding what must be done to safeguard marine life and sustain coastal communities are too large-scale and complex for one researcher, one institution, one research sector, or even one country to tackle on its own.

The collaborative approach developed by OFI is therefore essential to make real progress.

“In the coming months, Memorial will welcome a large influx of new post-doctoral researchers and graduate students who will work on many of the 16 complex, interlinked projects or modules that comprise OFI so far,” Dr. Snelgrove said.

OFI-driven research will also help grow the Atlantic economy by ensuring the ocean’s potential is developed sustainably.

That means a better understanding of ocean change and more efficient fish aquaculture, with hardier fish, less reliance on fishmeal and reduced environmental impact.

N.L. team leading the way

Over the last year, the OFI group established advisory and management committees to oversee OFI research and provide strong and effective governance. Currently, a number of Memorial’s OFI members are working towards effective ocean policy and identifying opportunities to apply and test research with industry through incubator projects.

Dr. Noel Cadigan’s work is a “perfect example” of both these goals, says Dr. Snelgrove.

“Dr. Cadigan is the first Ocean Choice International Research Chair in Stock Assessment and Sustainable Harvest Advice for Northwest Atlantic Fisheries,” he said. “Through his research he hopes to generate better models to assess the status of a wide range of commercial species so we can manage stocks of those species more sustainably and more predictably.”

Research space in the Core Science Facility, which is currently under construction on the St. John’s campus, is also part of the Memorial-OFI integrated plan.

This new facility, along with space in the Ocean Sciences Centre in Logy Bay and the Marine Institute, will enhance the ability of OFI researchers to recruit and retain world-class faculty and graduate students.

“More than 40 per cent of Memorial’s research is ocean-related,” said Dr. Mark Abrahams, vice-president (research) pro tempore.

“If ocean research is happening in the North Atlantic, we’re most likely involved. Through our talented researchers involved in the OFI, Memorial and our partners are helping to ensure ocean resources are developed in a sustainable manner, spur growth and allow us to maintain a competitive advantage.”

‘Just getting started’

“While significant progress has been made in the past 12 months, there is still much more that OFI can achieve as we work to leverage the many significant blue economy opportunities,” said Dr. Snelgrove.

“We got the party started and it’s a party like no other, featuring sustainable seafood as a main course, late nights in the lab and moonlight cruises rolling around on research vessels in the Labrador Sea,” he said.

“But the party continues. We are not trying to do business as usual, but rather, we are creating something completely new. It takes extra effort to come at complex challenges in new ways, with new linkages, new relationships, and new solutions to new — and old — problems. This new way of doing business will create more partnerships and new opportunities that exceed the sums of their parts. And most important of all, we’re just getting started.”

Transformative ocean research

Canada’s ocean economy has substantial room for growth and OFI is positioned to facilitate that growth.

While most countries generate five per cent of their GDP from the ocean, Canada, which has the longest shoreline in the entire world, generates return rates less than two per cent.

OFI recognizes that the support of the Government of Canada’s federal laboratories, the Royal Canadian Navy, National Film Board of Canada and national and international industry, as well as the assistance from their eight international research partners, will establish Canada as a global leader in transformative ocean research.

For more information, please visit OFI’s new website.



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