By Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, Chief Scientific Officer (consultant), AltaSea
As the U.S. economy continues its slow recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression, the pace of growth has not been consistent across all sectors and in all areas.
In Los Angeles and, particularly, the San Pedro community, many people remain unemployed or underemployed. The region needs to create jobs across the entire spectrum of educational backgrounds, including those with high-school diplomas, technical-school training, traditional four-year college and graduate degrees.
At AltaSea, in both the preliminary “clusters,” or areas of focus on ocean-related sustainable economic development, workers will be needed to help these sectors grow as much as possible.
In the Sustainable Aquaculture cluster, trained workers are needed to drive the boats, manage the farm, harvest the mussels, market the products, run the hatchery and conduct research.
In the Blue-Technology cluster, people are needed including those who can weld and build the underwater robots, operate and repair the tender ship from which the robots are launched and analyze the data that the vessels and their crews will collect.
Jobs in both clusters are important to the community’s economic health and development, and their work will contribute to solving some of the greatest challenges facing humanity and the ocean.
A large portion of the world’s population gets its primary source of protein from the ocean. As the population expands, so does the need for sustainable food sources.
Wild-caught fisheries cannot sustain the demand. Aquaculture can be part of the solution, but it must be done sustainably. If it causes habitat destruction or pollution, it isn’t sustainable.
Aquaculture of bivalves is inherently sustainable, one reason why AltaSea decided to make Catalina Sea Ranch its initial partner in this cluster. The multi-trophic aquaculture model being tested is expected to advance our understanding of how we can feed the world. That will have a global impact.
The Blue-Tech cluster also can impact the globe in many ways. However, so little of the ocean has been explored that it is difficult to predict what those impacts may be.
But as one example, if we can better understand the Arctic ecosystem now covered by ice much of the year, we can better protect it as the polar ice cap melts and additional uses are sought.
As the ocean is threatened by ocean acidification, robotic devices can monitor changes in a cost-efficient manner, providing the data we will need to better address a worsening and serious situation. The ocean is our final frontier and only by understanding it can we use it sustainably and conserve its health.
At the same time, developing solutions to the problems we’ve created, and sustainable ocean-based businesses can create new jobs for a wide range of the region’s residents. Everyone wins by investing in these promising areas of research and development.