Startup Week 2017: Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative

With the highest unemployment rate in the country, four consecutive years of declining Gross Domestic Product, and a downgraded credit rating, Alaska’s economy is clearly in trouble.

Ocean Tuesday is the first step toward a solution — a long-term transition from a simple raw material exporter to a dynamic economy based on the sustainable development of the oceans. Ocean Tuesday is statewide collaboration of entrepreneurs and innovators with a common goal of capturing value from Alaska’s vast ocean resources.

Emerging sectors within the blue economy include living resources, coastal tourism, ocean technology, renewable energy, and marine biotechnology. Marine biotechnology encompasses many new applications within the blue economy, from new cancer treatments to seaweed farming.

Companies in this sector often hire employees with education and experience in a range of disciplines from marine biology and chemistry to microbiology and bioinformatics. Zymetech, based in Iceland, is one such company, whose patented products are designed fight against viruses and bacterial infections using enzymes from cod. A local Alaskan ocean business is Barnacle Foods.

Based in Juneau, they harvest wild kelp to make innovative foods such as salsas, pickles, and spice blends. Their vision to ‘enhance the long-term value of renewable, edible resources’ is directly aligned with the concept of blue economy, which is simply defined as the sustainable development of ocean resources.

From Argentina to Ireland, there are over 50 initiatives are underway around the world to sustainably develop the oceans. Quebec recently adopted a comprehensive 15-year maritime strategy that allocates $9 billion to infrastructure projects, research and development, and education and training.

Their goal is to add 30,000 jobs and build their blue economy while also advancing social and environmental priorities. The emergence of the blue economy holds enormous potential to create economic benefit for Alaska. With over half the nation’s coastline, nearly two-thirds of the nation’s annual seafood harvest, and about one-third of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Alaska has an ocean of opportunity.

Hand harvested bull kelp from the Inside Passage (Photo/Barnacle Foods)

Kelp Salsa by Barnacle Foods of Juneau

If our state’s ocean economy were proportional to the size of its ocean, it would be worth nearly $100 billion, more than twice the size of the state’s overall economy. Alaska has vast ocean resources and with a sustainable development strategy can realize growth opportunities in the blue economy.

Ocean Tuesday, on July 25 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Alaska Communications Business Technology Center (600 East 36th Avenue), will provide a global and local perspective of the blue economy.

The agenda includes three components: guest speakers from Norway, the UK and Maine, a local discussion around challenges and opportunities in Alaska’s ocean economy, and a statewide video conference collaboration.

Ocean Tuesday is open to all entrepreneurs and innovators who want to engage in Alaska’s largest sustainable economic opportunity – the oceans! Come learn, connect, and shape the emergence of the new blue economy in Alaska. Thank you to Rachael Miller, Hickel Professor of Strategic Leadership & Entrepreneurship, Alaska Pacific University, and Nils Andreassen, Executive Director, Institute of the North.

Alaska Startup Week brings entrepreneurs, local leaders, and friends together during 10 days of events and celebration to build momentum and opportunity around our state’s unique entrepreneurial identity. Startup Week is a focal point of the Innovate Alaska (2.0) effort to diversify Alaska’s economic base. For more information and a full list of 2017 events, visit

Joel Cladouhos is the Program Director for the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative, a program with the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association. Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association recently launched the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative to transform Alaska's economy by capturing more value from our vast ocean resources.

More from Startup Week 2017:

Startup Week 2017: Building Alaska’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Startup Week 2017: Lots of Progress, More to Come From Women Entrepreneurs

07/24/2017 - 3:04pm