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CHOW 2017

Sea Technology took some time out from the office to attend the opening day of Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), which runs from June 13 to 15 at the Ronald Reagan Building in D.C. this year. 2017 marks the largest crowd thus far for CHOW, with more than 1,000 people registered.

UN Ocean Conference
The day started off with a panel on the UN Ocean Conference that took place June 5 to 9 in New York City, coinciding with World Oceans Day on June 8. The panelists were: Ambassador David A. Balton, deputy assistant secretary for Oceans and Fisheries, U.S. Department of State; Rolando Morrillo, vice president, Rockefeller & Co.; Mara A. Murillo Correa, senior program officer, intergovernmental affairs, UN Environment Programme; and Karen Sack, managing director, Ocean Unite.

The UN conference focused on SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) 14, aspiring to sustainable ocean development and conservation. There are 17 SDGs, and they apply to the whole world, not just developing nations, unlike the UN Millennium Goals.

The conference in June was the first UN conference on SDG 14, chaired by Fiji and Sweden. Originally, the plan was to hold the conference in Fiji, but holding it in NYC allowed access to/for the business community, which needs to be a part of sustainable ocean development efforts, according to the panel. None of the SDGs exist or can be achieved in isolation.

The conference was a call to action for stakeholders and resulted in more than 1,300 voluntary commitments to work toward SDG 14. Monitoring will be part of the process, with a follow-up planned for 2020 in a meeting to be hosted by Portugal and Kenya.

During the Q&A session, Morrillo addressed the notion of a circular economy, which is new to the U.S.–attaching value to waste and developing it as a product. He also said that while the idea of carbon taxing has been out there, as of yet, there is no international standard, which means efforts around the world are uncoordinated. Balton pointed out that marine nutrient pollution is another major problem, which requires working with the agriculture industry. Correa said environmental sustainability must be integrated into industry best practices. Sack praised U.S. President Barack Obama for his administration’s work on the oceans, which paved the way for the high-level global engagement happening today.

Blue Horizons
Next up for the morning was a panel comprising three former NOAA administrators: Dr. D. James Baker, now a consultant for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization; Dr. VAdm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., now CEO of GeoOptics Inc.; and Dr. Jane Lubchenco, now a professor and advisor in marine studies at Oregon State University.

Baker said that NOAA has progressed from a budget of $2 billion under his leadership to $5.5 billion under Kathryn D. Sullivan. “This progress was made possible by a continuity of ideas,” he said.

The panelists discussed their concerns about programs cut from President Donald Trump’s FY 2018 budget, including the Sea Grant program, which destroys a network for protection and sustainability of the coasts, said Lautenbacher. Baker brought up that the new budget takes out ice-modeling research, which will have a direct effect on the U.S. because the Arctic could be ice free in 2030 to 2050, leading to big changes in/extreme weather.

“Much of what NOAA does is not widely appreciated,” said Lubchenco. Weather forecasting is an example.

All three were wary of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s review of marine national monuments, ordered by Trump.

“We are trashing the world,” and we need to do something about it, Lautenbacher said in his closing remarks. “I encourage you to work for a sustainable world.”

Technology as a Game Changer
Bill Hilf, CEO of Vulcan Inc., gave an introductory talk for the afternoon Technology panel. Vulcan was founded by Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and a philanthropist. The company uses data to support conservation efforts by tracking illegal fishing. Vast amounts of data are turned into actionable, near-real-time intelligence.

The Technology panelists were: Roger Hine, co-founder and chief technology officer, Liquid Robotics, a Boeing Co.; Keith Rosema, executive director, technology advancement, Vulcan Inc.; Dr. Mario Tamburri, director, Alliance for Coastal Technologies; and Dr. Jyotika Virmani, senior director, XPRIZE.

The panelists discussed cutting-edge ocean tech, such as constellations of small satellites with lower price tags; machine learning to analyze big data; 3D printing; AI; robotics; sensor development for smaller, cheaper instruments; open-source tech; and data as a service/product.

They also discussed the need to share the risk load for tech development, which requires public and private partnerships.

While there has been an explosion in computational ability, the ocean still lacks a system of network connectivity from the depths to the surface, Hine said. Corals could be gone by 2050. Saving the ocean with tech takes will, he said.

–Aileen Torres-Bennett