Why Canada Is Making Waves in Ocean Sciences

The country's ocean sciences sector boasts rich marine history, innovation ecosystems and strong leadership in the "blue economy".

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Experts in Excellence
Experts in Excellence
Destination Canada Business Events' specific knowledge of this vast land makes this team a first stop for executives and organizers in the natural resources and ocean technology seeking to tailor the right package for their event, whatever the size. Learn more at businesseventscanada.ca.

From coast to coast, Canada's leadership in ocean industries like aquaculture, offshore resources exploration, marine renewables, bioresources and fisheries is unparalleled. The country's vast and diverse coastline has given rise to a growing ocean science innovation ecosystem supported by government, industry and academia. It's no wonder so many business event planners are intrigued by Victoria, Québec City, Halifax, Charlottetown and St. John's as potential host cities for their international conferences. 

On both the east and west coasts, Canada's ocean engineering and technology community is larger, stronger and more sustainably minded than it has ever been, aiming to give protected status to a quarter of its oceans by 2025. The country's deep resources, top-notch meeting venues and research facilities have catapulted it to the top of the list for organizations seeking the perfect destination for their group events.

Here’s how Canadian destinations, with their ocean industry expertise and specialized talent pools, are attracting global organizations like IEEE and the World Aquaculture Society.

Victoria, British Columbia, is innovating ocean observation

Victoria, British Columbia boasts a wealth of ocean-oriented research organizations and institutions.
Victoria, British Columbia boasts a wealth of ocean-oriented research organizations and institutions. Photo Credit: Destination Canada

Located steps from the Pacific Ocean, British Columbia's capital city of Victoria counts more than 100 sector-related organizations, offering easy access to thought leaders for conferences. For example, the Institute of Ocean Sciences — one of Canada's largest marine research centers — employs more than 250 scientists and technicians who can enhance speaker programs for events. 

Ocean-oriented activities — including ocean recreation, ocean transport and seafood — make up about 8 percent of the provincial economy. 

The University of Victoria is renowned for its Earth and Ocean Sciences program and for Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a global leader in ocean science research and technology. ONC's cabled observatories (platforms on the seabed that monitor Canada's east and west coasts and the Arctic, providing the data to the surface via cables), supply vital data about marine environments. ONC's Innovation Centre also created the Underwater Listening Station, which can monitor sounds produced by ships, whales or fish. 

Major business players operating in Victoria include Cascadia Seaweed, one of the largest providers of ocean cultivated seaweed; MarineLabs, which provides data-as-a-service marine condition information from fleets of compact, cloud-connected buoys; Open Ocean Robotics, which produces energy-harvesting autonomous boats equipped with cameras and sensors that instantly relay oceanic observations; and DSA, an ocean engineering consultancy that offers software solutions for marine service providers, naval architects and oceanographers.

The city recently launched The Ocean Futures Hub & Cluster, which will help solve challenges faced by the marine industry, while assisting area companies to pursue exciting opportunities within the global ocean and marine industry.
  

"Faculty and students from the University of Victoria are quite active in the study of optical oceanography; many supported the conference by serving on the planning committee, as presenters, and as volunteers."
—Jennifer Ramarui, executive director, Oceanography Society

Notable oceans-related conferences, that have recently been held in Victoria, include Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, Summer Meeting 2018; Canadian Institute of Marine Engineering MARI-TECH 2018; North Pacific Marine Science Organization PICES Annual Meeting 2019; and Aquaculture Canada 2019.

Planners saw a boost in exhibitors when the Rockville, Md.-based Oceanography Society held its 2016 Ocean Optics Conference in Victoria, according to Jennifer Ramarui, the organization's executive director.

"I know this increase was due to the concentration of organizations and companies involved in oceanographic research in Victoria and other areas of British Columbia," says Ramarui, citing local sponsors and exhibitors including Ocean Networks Canada, AML Oceanographic and ASL Environmental Services. "The proximity of the Victoria Conference Centre to the University of Victoria was also an important factor in selecting Victoria as the conference location. Faculty and students from that institution are quite active in the study of optical oceanography; many supported the conference by serving on the planning committee, as presenters, and as volunteers."

Halifax: A smart city near Canada's Ocean Supercluster

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Halifax's Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship is specifically designed to support applied innovation in the oceans sector. Photo Credit: Destination Canada

Canada's original ocean city has always made its fortunes from the sea. Even as the technology fueling this sector evolves, the city’s commitment to stay at the cutting-edge of industry innovation remains steadfast. Halifax's home province of Nova Scotia boasts more than 300 companies, 80-plus innovators, and 35,000 people driving innovation in numerous ocean-related sectors. These include underwater acoustics, sensors and instrumentation, fisheries and aquaculture, deep-water battery tech, communications and navigation, marine geomatics, marine biotechnology, robotics and autonomous vehicles, informatics and artificial intelligence as well as naval architecture. The result? Nova Scotia is a globally recognized powerhouse with a CAD$4.5 billion ocean economy.

Halifax's science-based workforce's depth includes experts in pioneering tech, research and academia (not to mention one of the highest concentrations of ocean-related PhDs in the world) who can round out content for conferences. For example, Halifax's Dalhousie University — home to the Aquatron Laboratory, Canada's largest university aquatic research facility — receives more than a quarter of all oceans research grants from Canada's National Sciences and Engineering Council.

"Halifax's thriving ocean technology community makes it a natural fit to bring our flagship conference here."
—Christopher Whitt, general chair for OCEANS 2024 Halifax

The country's largest ocean research center, the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, houses more than 600 researchers, engineers, technicians, as well as natural resource and environmental managers. Other notable ocean-related establishments include the National Research Council of Canada's Institute of Marine Biosciences, the Ocean Tracking Network, and the Halifax Marine Research Institute. Halifax's Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship (COVE) is specifically designed to support applied innovation in the oceans sector. It offers 49 feet of water depth for harbor-floor testing, 50,000 square feet of collaborative space, and access to some of the industry's leading minds.

Halifax is home to countless ocean innovators, such as Ocean Sonics, working to improve the quality of underwater sound measurements; Turbulent Research, experts in underwater acoustics, real-time processing and low power embedded circuit design for long-term and autonomous deployments; MetOcean Telematics helps customers with integrating hardware into autonomous underwater vehicles, buoys and more. Finally, there's Irving Shipbuilding, a global leader in building/fabricating/converting/servicing vessels and platforms — currently undertaking a CAD$60 billion shipbuilding contract for the Government of Canada. 

"Halifax's thriving ocean technology community makes it a natural fit to bring our flagship conference here," says Christopher Whitt, general chair for OCEANS 2024 Halifax, one of the sector's most prominent global conferences. "Discover Halifax connected us to convention center information and hotels. Facilities like COVE bring together organizations that will support an event like ours." 

St. John's offers trailblazing ocean tech innovations on "the rock"

The harborfront city of St. John’s is the epicenter of Canada’s ocean innovation ecosystem.
The harborfront city of St. John’s is the epicenter of Canada’s ocean innovation ecosystem. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

Centers of Excellence
Centers of Excellence
Canada is an ideal destination for business events in numerous innovative sectors. Click here to learn about Canada's leadership in sectors including technology, agribusiness, life sciences and more.

 Perched on the most easterly point in North America with its own time zone, Newfoundland and Labrador is a hub for ocean sciences, off-shore energy production, mining and harsh environment testing. A world leader in the growing global ocean economy, the region represents more than half of Canada's ocean industry. The province produces 80 percent of the country's offshore petroleum.

The harborfront capital city of St. John's is the epicenter of the Canada's ocean innovation ecosystem, exporting to more than 50 countries, contributing more than CAD$16 billion annually to the economies of Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada. More than 90 companies, institutions and organizations are dedicated to research and development, training, education and smart solutions for sustainable exploration, development, monitoring and use of ocean resources. 

With an oceans sector workforce numbering 37,000, St. John's boasts some of Canada's most advanced ocean technology research facilities, including the world's largest flume tank and one of the longest ice tanks. Memorial University of Newfoundland, based in St. John's dedicates half its research budget to oceans. 

"We have a thriving cross-sectoral oceans industry community — ocean tech, capture fisheries, aquaculture, oil and gas — with firms competing with and surpassing global competitors."
—Cathy Hogan, executive director for OceansAdvance Inc.

The city is ideal for ocean-related events, according to Cathy Hogan, executive director for OceansAdvance Inc. For example, St. John's will play host to the Women in Ocean Leadership conference in 2022.
 
"We have a thriving cross-sectoral oceans industry community — ocean tech, capture fisheries, aquaculture, oil and gas — with firms competing with and surpassing global competitors," says Hogan.

The region's diverse ocean economy includes the fisheries and aquaculture, petroleum, ocean technology and sciences, marine maintenance and shipbuilding, seaport services and shipping. Innovations include Virtual Marine's at-sea safety training simulators, SubC Imaging's video equipment used in offshore markets and Kraken Robotics' underwater robotics and sensors. 

St. John's has hosted many successful conferences, including the Maritime & Arctic Security & Safety Conference, which takes place in the city annually, and will welcome the World Aquaculture Society North America in August 2022 and Destination Canada Business Events' signature event, Innovate Canada 2022.

Hogan adds that the city is especially proud of the partnerships and collaboration it provides to conference planners, along with its wide variety of research facilities and leading ocean tech companies that showcase the strength of its talent pipeline. 

"With our history and heritage — 500-plus years of making a living from the sea — first-class hotels, shops, superb food and friendly people, who will buy you a drink in a pub because you're are a CFA (come from away), St. John's is not a hard sell," says Hogan.

Québec City: A port city serving as the gateway to maritime and logistics innovation

The Canadian research icebreaker, CCGS Amundsen, with its home port in Québec City, is helping to revitalize Canadian Arctic science.
The Canadian research icebreaker, CCGS Amundsen, with its home port in Québec City, is helping to revitalize Canadian Arctic science. Photo Credit: Québec City Business Destination

Québec City's strategic location on the banks of the St. Lawrence River provides the perfect vantage point from which to welcome leading-edge ocean-related companies — including Canada's largest shipbuilder — and world-class research centers. The Port of Québec, one of the top five in Canada, sees 28 million tons of merchandise shipped through its commercial zone annually. The city is also known for its maritime tourism sector, with more than 1,300 ships ferrying more than 235,000 visitors into the area annually.

The city's thriving ocean industry hub currently has many innovative projects and initiatives. The Canadian research icebreaker, CCGS Amundsen, with its home port in Québec City, is revitalizing Canadian Arctic science by enabling local and international researchers unprecedented access to the Arctic Ocean. The city also houses XpertSea, an AI-driven data management platform that provides real-time insights to make aquaculture more efficient and sustainable, and Merinov, the country's largest integrated centre for applied research in fishing, aquaculture, and the processing and development of aquatic products.

“We've hosted many ArcticNet Annual meetings and Arctic Change meetings over the years and the staff, service, size, facilities and location of the Québec City Convention Centre is amazing.”
—Martin Fortier, executive director of Sentinel North

Planners can tap Québec City's wealth of expertise to augment their speaker programs from institutions such as Université Laval's Institut nordique du Québec, known as Canada's leader in Arctic research.

The city has hosted Arctic Change and the annual ArcticNet meetings every December, when delegates can experience a truly Nordic vibe aligned with the international conference's Arctic theme, says Martin Fortier, executive director of Sentinel North.
 
"The modern and centrally located Québec City Convention Centre is the perfect size for the 1,500-person conference," says Fortier. "The Québec City Convention Centre's close proximity to the historic Unesco World Heritage Site of Old Québec, with its French European cachet, gastronomy, and top hotels, and to the research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen, makes it a truly unique, world-class venue in North America. We've hosted many ArcticNet Annual meetings and Arctic Change meetings over the years and the staff, service, size, facilities and location of the Québec City Convention Centre is amazing."

The conference partners with Université Laval, the host institution of the ArcticNet Network of Centres of Excellence, a large national Arctic research networks that involves over 30 universities across Canada, says Fortier.

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island: A seafood and ocean research powerhouse 

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, has a vibrant seafood industry, with shellfish growers such as Atlantic Aqua Farms.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, has a vibrant seafood industry, with shellfish growers such as Atlantic Aqua Farms. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

 Prince Edward Island (PEI) was known by many names before its current one, and the Indigenous Mi’kmaq people aptly called it Abegweit — "the land cradled on the waves." This maritime province, with its storybook white-sand beaches and lighthouses, and its capital city of Charlottetown are renowned for seafood — it's the largest grower and processor of live mussels in North America — and a vibrant ocean industry. 
 
Some of PEI's advanced institutions and companies include The Centre for Aquaculture Technologies (CAT), a leader in aquaculture research and solutions and AquaBounty, a state-of-the-art R&D hatchery. PEI also boasts a CAD$7 million partnership with ocean startup BioAlliance, a private sector-led non-profit dedicated to building the province's bioscience industry. The Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation, located at the University of PEI, supports world-class research and learning, and the Aquatic Virology Collaborating Centre consists of a multi-disciplinary group of researchers studying eukaryotic viruses of aquatic origin. 

"Our delegates love coming to PEI; it's often our highest-attended event with over 300 delegates representing the aquaculture industry, government, academia, and support service businesses."
—AAC President Kim Gill

Some of Charlottetown's ocean sector business include Aspin Kemp and Associates, Red Rock Power, Frontier Power Systems, Atlantic Advanced Power Technologies, MarineNav and NorCan Marine. The Advanced Marine Technology sector — largely focused on marine, oil and gas and shipbuilding-related solutions — is developing on PEI, accounting for more than 200 jobs and over CAD$80 million in export sales. 

Notable conferences in PEI include 2018's International Symposium on Aquatic Animal Health, 2019's Atlantic International Chapter of American Fisheries Society and the upcoming 2024 Aquaculture Association of Canada's annual conference.

"Our delegates love coming to PEI; it's often our highest-attended event with over 300 delegates representing the aquaculture industry, government, academia and support service businesses," says AAC's president Kim Gill. "Attendees enjoy everything about Charlottetown: business and social networking at wonderful restaurants, seeing a show at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, Canadian history, and of course, the charming island people. Everything can be accessed within a one-hour drive, including visits and tours with aquaculture and fishing companies, and seeing first-hand our industry hard at work producing world-class mussels, oysters, and salmon. While our delegates come for the conference, they often stay for all PEI has to offer."

destination-canada-logo-smallIn Canada, oceans-industry leaders will find support from federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as academia and innovation investors and one of the world's easiest visa regimes. Further simplifying the business process is the pool of destination and sector experts provided by Destination Canada Business Events. The team's specific knowledge of this vast land and oceans makes Destination Canada Business Events team an organizer's first stop for tailoring the right package for their event, whatever the size. 

"When you combine Canada's natural and cultural attributes with the unique opportunities to explore ground-breaking ideas in ocean sciences and technologies, it's easy to understand why organizations the world over are choosing Canadian locations to host events in the blue economy space," says Virginie De Visscher, senior director of business development, economic sectors, for Destination Canada Business Events.

To learn about assets and opportunities and arrange future research trips and site inspections, go to businesseventscanada.ca.

For assistance in bringing your oceans event to Canada, connect directly with our expert in the sector, Pamela Wilton, Business Development Manager, Economic Sectors - Natural Resources. 

Content sponsored by Destination Canada Business Events.