One of the cool aspects of my job is hearing from different people “from away” who want to learn about Gloucester.
Last month, representatives of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Holyrood Oceans Initiative reached out to me with a request for a meeting with ocean innovators in Gloucester.
That’s how Tom Daniel, the city’s new community development director, came to recently host five representatives from Newfoundland for a day of fact-finding and maritime site visits.
Over the course of several hours, the delegation met with officials from Ocean Alliance, learned about the biological and ecological research work at the UMass Large Pelagics Center, and gained insight into Maritime Gloucester’s successful education partnership with city schools.
During lunch, we had a round-table discussion with the Newfoundland contingent along with academic and maritime experts from various local and regional organizations such as National Marine Fisheries Service, Endicott College, Salem State, and the Division of Marine Fisheries. We were pleased to have City Councilor Paul McGeary join us as well. The visiting delegation included a city councilor from Holyrood and it was interesting also to talk about various forms of local government.
Meeting with groups from outside the city means more than exchanging pleasantries or exhibiting civic pride. It is important to learn first-hand from other communities that share the same challenges and aspirations as Gloucester. The opportunity to lay groundwork for future collaboration is also invaluable.
Most Gloucester residents probably have never heard of Holyrood, a small community of 2,000 residents nestled near a deep-water harbor on the eastern most edge of North America. Holyrood shares more in common with Gloucester than meets the eye.
Both communities rely on natural resources and trace their roots back to the historic fishing industry. And like Gloucester, Holyrood faced a cod fisheries crisis when the Canadian government closed the entire Atlantic cod fishery in 1992.
In the decades following the Canadian Fisheries crisis, regions like Newfoundland and Labrador worked hard to diversify their ocean economies. For Holyrood, the regional effort led to construction of a Marine Base by the Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Marine Institute.
The first phase of the project is complete and construction of a breakwater and wharf necessary for oceanic acoustics research is underway. The final phase, a 40,000-square-foot ocean technology center, will come online by 2016 and private sector investment is expected to follow.
The marine base initiative places Holyrood at the forefront of Canada’s “Blue Economy” movement and creates a rare opportunity for the town to expand its traditional fishing industry through the emerging ocean technology sector. Like Gloucester, Holyrood sees renewed economic opportunity through creation of an ocean research and innovation cluster.
We share similar goals for attracting new businesses and industry in areas such as diversified fisheries, ocean-mapping, life sciences, remote operated and underwater vehicle technology and so many other ocean-related opportunities. We hope for future collaboration, either on research initiatives or market-driven opportunities but even if the chance to join forces does not materialize, the visit by the Holyrood delegation reminded us of the deep historic connection between Gloucester and Newfoundland.
Samuel de Champlain, who is credited with the first landing in Gloucester, played a major role in the settlement of Newfoundland. In the centuries to follow, fishermen routinely migrated south from the Canadian province to our city. One Holyrood representative commented that the Cenotaph on the iconic Gloucester Fishermen’s Memorial lists hundreds of Newfoundland men lost at sea over the centuries yet there is no such monument in their community.
From Gloucester to Newfoundland and beyond, our world remains connected by the promise of innovation and opportunity. Thank you, Holyrood, for taking the time to visit our city.
Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.