Island planners look to ‘blue economy’ for economic strength

An oyster dock above an oyster farm in Katama Bay. – MV Times file photo

Aquaculture, boat building, charter fishing, water tours — just about any activity related to the surrounding sea — is part of what the Seaport Economic Council (SEC), an organization developed under the Baker-Polito administration, refers to as the “blue economy.”

The SEC is challenging 78 coastal communities across Massachusetts to leverage their coastal waters and strengthen their economies by turning to the ocean. Cape Cod has developed a full-fledged blue economy plan, and Martha’s Vineyard is now looking to follow suit.

The Martha’s Vineyard Donors Collaborative (MVDC), an advocacy organization working to sustain the Vineyard by strengthening its nonprofit community, will kick off the effort with a roundtable discussion at the Tisbury Senior Center on Wednesday, March 9, from 6 pm to 8:30 pm.

Peter Karlson and Christopher Adams, leaders of the blue economy initiative on Cape Cod, will be among the panelists. Promising ideas generated at the 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,” said Peter Temple, MVDC executive director, in a Letter to the Editor published Feb. 25. “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.”

Dan Seidman, chairman of the Tisbury planning board, said the Island has endless opportunities for blue economy growth.

“It’s just a means to look at all these different economic drivers and, since we’re surrounded by water, it makes sense to look at things that would be related to that,” he told The Times in a recent telephone conversation.

For example, in Tisbury, projects could include strengthening the working waterfront and aquaculture, repairing the seawall, constructing a boardwalk, or providing services for the Steamship Authority.

“All over the Island we have this base of amazing people with world-class skills,” he said. “Are we utilizing that to make the Island be more than just a resort community?”

He said it could be unique ideas, such as a new kind of wetsuit, net, or new sport. Strong ideas can be submitted to the Seaport Council for potential funding.

“We’re hoping to bring people who have an interest in the blue economy to the meeting; we want selectmen to come, harbormasters, just anybody who has an interest in anything related to the blue economy,” Mr. Seidman said. “This is an Island-wide effort.”

For more information, contact Dan Seidman at 508-693-2519.