GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 9, 2013

The Mayor's Desk: Lessons from latest Maritime Summit

The Mayor's Desk
Carolyn Kirk

---- — Through a show of hands, it was apparent that there was strong relevance of working ports to the full house of attendees at Gloucester’s second Maritime Summit.

People raised their hand if they live in a port community that is undergoing an economic transition, if the work in a port community, and if they rely on a port community for their livelihood.

What happens with working ports such as Gloucester during a time of economic transition is very important, and is something all attendees had in common yet at the same time, the diversity represented at the summit was remarkable.

We had fishermen, scientists, private industry, academic institutions, research organizations, citizens, government partners, and more. We asked ourselves two essential questions: what is the next generation of ocean opportunity? And what is the economic impact in terms of jobs and investments for port cities like Gloucester?

For Gloucester, this journey began as an urgent desire to save our working waterfront, and protect our core industry, the historic fishing industry that has fished out of Gloucester Harbor for 400 years.

We know there is a critical mass of commercial activity that needs to occur in order to protect the assets that make up a working port. We also know that our fleet is vastly smaller than it was just a generation ago. So we’ve begun looking for ways to diversify our economy in ways compatible with the commercial fishing industry.

Our first summit, held in November 2011, sought to define the size and scope of what we were calling the maritime economy – that economy that is compatible with the fishing industry.

We learned that the economic sector known as marine science and technology is $5 billion in New England, $1.8 billion in Mass., and the North of Boston region is second only to Boston in terms of patents granted in the economic sector, and second only to Boston in terms of venture capital coming into the sector. And Gloucester sits squarely in the center of this North of Boston area with all of the port assets that are necessary for gaining access to that next generation of ocean opportunity and economic benefit.

For generations, Gloucester children have walked down to the working waterfront and gone to work on a fishing boat. They learned about the ocean and its might as well as its bounty from their fathers and uncles.

The city’s vision for Gloucester is that our children will still make their way down to the working port, and perhaps meet a scientist studying the impact of ocean pollution on the ecosystem or help launch a robotic tuna fish or watch giant wind turbines be unloaded at Cruiseport and, yes, still go fishing if they want.

This Second Summit tells us that our inquiry about the next generation of ocean opportunity extends far beyond our own community and that many people are wondering the same thing. It is entirely fitting that Gloucester should lead the way in this inquiry. The Summit showed snapshots from our working port, adaptations and innovation occurring within the traditional fishing industry, exciting areas of ocean sciences, and some of the technologies of this new port economy.

We will continue the work of using lessons from the summit as a catalyst for growth – taking advantage of the opportunity before us, and translating it into jobs, investment and a secure future for those of us who live in a port community in transition, or work in a port community, or rely on a strong port for our livelihood.

Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.