October 10, 2012 -- Nestled on the North Shore of Massachusetts is the town of Gloucester. The town sits on Cape Ann and this popular summer destination is quintessential New England. It was originally founded in 1623 and is one of the earliest English settlements. In its earlier days it was an important shipbuilding center, and to this day due to its proximity to Georges Bank, it remains one of the most important fishing ports in the country. As you stroll along the waters edge you will find the iconic statue of Gorton's Fisherman leaning into the helm of his ship. The statue looks out to sea standing as a reminder of the over 10,000 men of Gloucester who gave their live to the Atlantic Ocean. Several of those men were depicted in the novel by Sebastian Junger, the Perfect Storm. Today as with many commercial fishing ports who's industry faces an unknown future, there is a movement to position the area for an influx of marine technology clusters. Marine Technology Reporter sat down with Carolyn Kirk the Mayor of Gloucester and the town's Director of Harbor Planning Sarah Garcia to see what is happening in the historical port.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your focus in northern New England with regard to increasing the viability and accessibility for marine technology companies?
Ms. Kirk: I took office January 1, 2008. Gloucester has 62 miles of coastline and one mile of the designated port area, which is what we consider to be our working harbor. That is the area of concentration that we have focused on. We had a series of what I call listening posts throughout the city.
Q: Was this an effort to take the pulse of the area regarding a focus for the working harbor?
Ms. Kirk: Yes. We asked people what their vision was for the working port of the city of Gloucester. We had over 600 people attend these meetings, and the format was very simple. They got to go to a microphone and speak for up to three minutes. We had a panel or nine people that were regular citizens and that also represented a cross section of the community. With our Director of Harbor Planning, Sarah Garcia's help and support we took all the feedback and digested it and came up with a plan for the harbor area. Basically that drove everything we have one since that time. Several things came out of that including the municipal harbor plan. which captured that vision and articulated it. The second thing that came out was an economic development plan for the harbor area and downtown area. There are three legs for the harbor economy, which emerged from the economic development plan. Those include continued support of the commercial fishing industry, diversification into the maritime sector, and visitor based or tourism economy. We have a plan in place for visitor-based economy, and we also have a plan in place for commercial fishing based economy. Diversification in the maritime sector was much less defined. In our focus in the area of marine science and technology we know we have access in the city and a port with deep-water access. We also have expertise to support this sector so what we did in November of 2011 was to pull together the new maritime port economy summit. That report is on the city of Gloucester's website. More than one hundred people participated in the sector during a day and a half long session that really zeroed in on how Gloucester fits in to the marine tech sector. We took a look at the assets and strengths that we bring to it. Then from there it triggered a set of activities around the economic development plan for this sector.
Q: I have worked in the past with scientists who are working with commercial fishermen and it was a great collaboration. It is a great use of the commercial vessels during off-season as well.
Ms. Garcia: It is a great collaboration. The fishermen have the expertise, and they know where to go. They have a skill set that is needed and are a great value to the scientists who in a lot of cases are not Captains.
Ms. Kirk: The other thing is having boats tied up is economically unsustainable, and unless you can have those boats working the consequence is you start to loose your infra- structure. You start to loose your working port. You loose the dockage because it has to go to the higher bidder that can pay the rent. You loose the shore side services. There is a downward spiral once you begin to loose the specific infrastructure of a working port.
Read a PDF of the interview here
Read the full story from Marine Technology Reporter here (interview starts on pg. 42)