Growing the ‘blue economy’


To the Editor:

The Island of Martha’s Vineyard’s geography, beauty, economy, character, and sense of community are defined by the sea. The Vineyard’s “blue” resources have driven our economy through a series of transitions over the past few hundred years, from agriculture and whaling to fishing, and in the modern era, tourism: We are a world-class travel destination.

For decades we’ve been trying to expand and diversify our economy beyond seasonal tourism. One way to do that is to leverage our existing marine/water-based resources and businesses, using public and private funding to expand our “blue economy.” We can add to our reputation as a great place to live, work, and play, our creative and entrepreneurial spirit, and our knowledge of blue technology, science, and craft in areas such as aquaculture, boat building, renewable energy, eroding coastlines, and wastewater/coastal pond management. We are a great laboratory to test ideas that have implications for coastal communities around the world.

The idea for the blue economy on the Vineyard is to map what we have, identify opportunities to expand existing or develop new businesses, and create an incubator or other means for developing and funding them.

The blue economy concept is not original. Cape Cod has been pursuing it for several years, and the governor’s revitalized Seaport Economic Council is offering grants to Massachusetts coastal communities for economic development and the challenges of sea-level rise and increasingly powerful coastal storms.

To explore the start of a blue economy initiative on the Vineyard, the Martha’s Vineyard Donors Collaborative will host a roundtable on Wednesday, March 9, from 6 pm to 8:30 pm at the Tisbury Senior Center. It will start with a presentation on the blue economy initiative on Cape Cod by Peter Karlson, entrepreneur in residence at the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, and Christopher Adams, chief of staff of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and the project lead for their blue economy initiatives. That will be followed by a discussion and brainstorming session on ideas for creating or expanding blue economy businesses on the Vineyard. Promising ideas generated at this session can be pitched at “Startup Weekend Blue,” a marine-related business accelerator to be held at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute April 1-3.

Our goal on March 9 is to bring together thinkers and doers from the Vineyard’s blue economy, town leaders, and other interested parties for what we hope will be an informative and productive session (RSVP to or call 508-645-3690. Space is limited).

Having a blue economy initiative/plan will help ensure that the Vineyard is a sustainable, vibrant, and desirable place to live, work, play, and create. Its mission would be to build off the Island’s water-based assets and entrepreneurial spirit to ensure a more stable, sustainable, and vibrant economy.

The blue economy includes a wide range of businesses. Those involved in any of the following are asked to attend: fishing, shellfishing, aquaculture, seaweed and sea salt, seafood prep/packaging, fish/seafood wholesalers, boat building, sail manufacture/repair, boat rental/repair/hauling, wholesale/retail boats and marine supplies, chandlery, marine salvage, port operations, scenic/sightseeing/fishing charters, museums, sailing clubs, spectator sports and sailboat races, dockage/mooring, leisure/hospitality, education.

Peter Temple, executive director
Martha’s Vineyard Donors Collaborative