Nautilus, in collaboration with Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, hosted a forum this week in Anchorage on an innovative idea for boosting the economy of Alaska’s fisheries – the Alaska Ocean Cluster.
Featured speaker Thor Siffusson, Founding Director of the Iceland Ocean Cluster, who addressed more than 25 Alaskan industry leaders and policymakers via Skype from Reykjavik. He spoke of his realization that many fishing communities are often isolated not just by geography but from access to the exchange of ideas and connections that could allow them to maximize catch value. When cod quotas were necessarily reduced in Iceland, he set out to personally connect academic, entrepreneurial and commercial resources by building a network focused on capturing more value from each fish caught.
“An Entrepreneurial Dating Service”
Inspired by the software industry and the new social entrepreneurship movement, Sigfusson envisioned a transformation of waste to wealth that maximizes both profits and resource conservation. The network of innovators, investors, academics, and communities supported profitable and sustainable fisheries through value-added products. From power beverages that include marine collagen, to skin care products, leather, fish meal and fish oil, the goal was 100% usability of the resource.
Today, Iceland’s fish resources support a growing and increasingly youthful and tech-savvy community of fisheries, attracted by the potential for new product design as well as greater profit.
The Alaska Ocean Cluster’s mission is to achieve sustainable development of our our oceans through supporting ocean policy, entrepreneurship, innovation and education in Alaska.
Other communities have emulated Iceland’s success, including Maine, New England and most recently Seattle. In the US, millions of tons of edible and inedible (but useful) seafood is wasted each year. At the same time, there is impetus to raise the profitability of the fishing industry for local communities, especially in Alaska. Reducing wast and increasing profits are a natural match, and support for an Alaskan Ocean Cluster is growing advocates and gaining attention from tribal representatives, universities, politicians, and industry.
Creating income and employment opportunities based on sustainable natural systems makes sense – and dollars – for Alaska.
Image from Ocean Cluster Analysis October 03, 2013
Iceland Ocean Cluster Continues to Impress
Ocean Products Cluster Working Group Action Initiative