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By Janet Harron

Protecting marine life, promoting sustainable resource development and addressing issues around climate change aren’t the only things that add up to safe and sustainable ocean development.

Coastal communities are also a fundamental part of the equation that will be addressed by the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI).

Truly interdisciplinary

Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee, of Memorial’s Department of Geography, will lead the OFI’s research into sustainable fisheries and oceans, along with a team of colleagues from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities. The team includes Drs. Alistair Bath, Dean Bavington, Mario Blaser, Norm Catto, Reid Davis, Joel Finnis, Charles Mather, Barb Neis, and Nicole Power. Also involved are Paul Foley and Gabriela Sabau from Grenfell Campus and Rob Briggs and Thomas Puestow from C-CORE.

“It’s definitely a team effort . . . from the social sciences we are looking at community values and sustainable practices in fisheries,” said Dr. Chuenpagdee. “Charles Mather is leading the module on social licence to operate in aquaculture; Barb Neis is building in the aspects of occupational safety and health. We are looking at sustainability in fisheries and aquaculture from the perspective of fishing people and coastal communities. It’s a very comprehensive project.”

In addition, Dr. Catto and his C-CORE colleagues are looking at physical changes in the environment that would affect people from a vulnerability perspective. Dr. Bath is looking at human dimensions; Dr. Blaser is examining these issues from the perspective of Indigenous communities.

Ocean Frontier Institute

Dalhousie University, the University of Prince Edward Island and Memorial are coming together in an historic partnership to form the Ocean Frontier Institute, each bringing their individual strengths in science relating to atmosphere-ocean interaction, ecosystems, fisheries, aquaculture and social science to the table.

Dr. Chuenpagdee’s work with Too Big To Ignore, which focuses on addressing issues and concerns affecting small-scale fisheries worldwide, dovetails nicely with the aims of the Ocean Frontier Institute.

“We are building a good platform for coastal communities around the world to work in collaboration with their governments to elevate the whole discourse around fisheries and ultimately achieve global fisheries sustainability. Fundamentally, Too Big To Ignore has the same values as the OFI.”

Social sciences investigation

One of Memorial’s three key investigators on the project, Dr. Chuenpagdee says that Memorial is guiding social sciences investigation for the Ocean Frontier Institute. She sees it as a great opportunity for collaboration and is looking forward to co-designing research and co-producing knowledge in true interdisciplinary fashion.

“We can do all sorts of discovery and experiments about the natural world, but if we are serious about addressing concerns related to the oceans, we have to listen to what matters to people. And that can’t be done without social sciences research.”

Dr. Chuenpagdee believes Memorial is uniquely positioned to take on this leading role. She says when it comes to the connection to the ocean, coasts and fisheries, it matters a lot to people in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“These things are crucial to the viability of our communities. After all, we are a coastal people.” — Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee

“We all rely on a healthy ocean and a safe space to work and we are all vulnerable to global change. These things are crucial to the viability of our communities. After all, we are a coastal people.”

Social sciences researchers involved in the Ocean Frontier Institute ultimately intend to use their findings to equip communities with tools, approaches and best practices to help them become less vulnerable, stronger, and more viable well into the future.

The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) is an historic partnership between Dalhousie University, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Prince Edward Island. Created through a nearly $100-million federal investment, the OFI will focus on solutions for safe and sustainable ocean development. Through its unique partnership with its research partners, Memorial will lead breakthroughs in four key areas: sustainable fisheries; sustainable aquaculture; marine safety; and ocean data and technology. Learn more about the OFI here.


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