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Island’s ‘untapped potential’ of water-based industries

Bermuda could tap into a multibillion dollar economic business model, if the Island can find a way to capitalise on a ‘blue economy’.

The ‘blue economy’ phrase has been mentioned several times over the last year, most recently in Friday’s Throne Speech Opposition reply, but what does a blue economy business model mean exactly and what would it look like in Bermuda?

Coined by Belgian professor Gunter Pauli, a blue economy is moving away from one or two core competencies to a portfolio of businesses, using all of its available resources, to generate multiple benefits for business and society.

For Bermuda, an Island set 700 miles at sea, it would mean looking beyond international business and tourism to water-based industries.

Wave energy, mining, fish and shellfish farming, tourism and education are just some of the potential ideas. Another idea is to look to the sky for satellite focused opportunities.

In last year’s Throne Speech, Governor George Fergusson called for Bermuda to develop a National Aquaculture Strategy, stating that US-based Brookings Institution described the blue economy as a “$500 billion-and-growing global water technology business sector.”

According to economist Peter Everson, chair of the Chamber’s Economic Committee, the only limit to the untapped potential is “our minds.”

The blue economy concept has been on Bermuda’s radar screen for several years now, he says, due to the Island’s limited small and expensive land base and remote location, which hampers economic activity.

But what Bermuda does have is “terrific climate and clean air and water which are in short supply elsewhere in the world.”

Plus, the Island has a 200-mile exclusive economic zone, which multiplies the Island’s productive area many times over, Mr Everson added.

“Currently we use it (sea) to extract a small amount of fish and as a sewer,” he said. “The challenge is to appreciate that it is a resource of untapped potential and to seek ways to harness that potential for the betterment of the people of Bermuda.

“We are blessed by a history rich in maritime exploits and have people with great depths of knowledge about our immediate surrounds. On top of that we have BIOS which spends millions of dollars each year examining these same waters and has some of the best researchers in deep water science.”

There are companies out there looking to capitalise on the blue economy, including Bermuda-based Triton Renewable Energy, where Mr Everson is a director. Triton is seeking to generate electricity and fresh water from the ocean’s energy “without environmental pollutions at a price that makes sense for Bermuda.”

But moving Bermuda from talking about a ‘blue economy’ to making it a reality is the next step.

“Given all of the foregoing it appears to me that we should be devoting much time and energy to thinking about what we can do to transform this potential into something tangible to benefit not just the current generation but those that will follow behind us,” said Mr Everson.

Waves of potential: Wave energy, mining, fish and shellfish farming, tourism and education are just some of the potential ideas for water-based industries for Bermuda.

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Published February 18, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated February 17, 2013 at 7:07 pm)

Island’s ‘untapped potential’ of water-based industries

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