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The Blue Economy Resilience Initiative

New partnerships and expansion in the Caribbean

The Blue Economy Resilience Initiative (BERI) is an initiative focused on economic development via ocean- and marine-related industries. Since its inception in 2018, and led by Bluetide, it has grown into a multi-tiered and diverse group of organizations. Following on the success of the Bluetide Caribbean Investment Summit held on August 17th, 2022, at Vivo Beach Club in Carolina, Puerto Rico, BERI’s momentum continues to grow, as it forges new partnerships and expands its work beyond Puerto Rico. Specifically, Bluetide is currently in discussions to bring its expertise to Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and other islands and countries in the Caribbean.

One of Bluetide’s most significant new partnerships is with Fundación Grupo Puntacana (FGP) in the Dominican Republic. I spoke with both Ramón Barquín III, the President of the Board of Directors of Bluetide Puerto Rico Inc., and Jake Kheel, the Vice President of the Fundación Grupo Puntacana, to learn more about the burgeoning collaboration on the island.

In mid-October 2022, Bluetide took a multifaceted trip to the Dominican Republic: it was both a scientific trip to launch Bluetide’s artificial corals, and a diplomatic trip, as the group met with many high-ranking government officials from the Dominican Republic.

3-D Printed Artificial Coral

3-D Printed Artificial Coral; Courtesy of Bluetide

Regarding the scientific aspects of the trip, FGP has been working on coral restoration for many years and has a long history of collaborations with other, like-minded development organizations, in addition to extensive relationships with Puerto Rico. Interestingly, much of the genetic material of the coral in both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic is shared. When FGP heard about Bluetide’s vision for the Blue Economy and the potent resources Bluetide has in the R/V blueManta and other boats, they reached out and invited Bluetide to meet. Subsequently, Bluetide offered to bring the R/V blueManta over to the Dominican Republic to show its capabilities and undertake some pilot exercises.

Bluetide is developing artificial reef structures to grow coral and protect coastlines (Bluetide brings substrate structure that can grow corals as well as provide a physical structure to protect shorelines), and they performed initial surveys of the area. They then deployed these reef structures in the Dominican Republic. The artificial corals that Bluetide brought to the Dominican Republic were designed and printed in Puerto Rico by students using sophisticated 3-D printers, and then transported to the eastern side of the Dominican Republic, where the artificial corals were farmed at the bottom of the sea shelf (see sidebar for video of the coral work).

Placement of Artificial Corals at Bottom of Sea Shelf; Courtesy of Bluetide

Bluetide has a powerful mix of both equipment and expertise for creating the artificial coral reef structures. The coral is made in an easily replicable manner from 3-D printers, something that would have probably been impossible just a decade ago. Bluetide also has an experienced design team that decides what the ideal shape and design of these corals should be, in order to create a habitat that is healthy for reef organisms, and also resistant to wave action.

In its coral restoration work, FGP is using more traditional structures that have been applied successfully in coral restoration, including dome-shaped structures, rope nurseries, A-frame metal structures, and so on, employing materials such as cement, ceramic tiles, and metal rebar. Thus, it’s a good complement to what Bluetide is doing.

In addition to specific initiatives that Bluetide and FGP can work on together such as coral restoration, the two organizations sense that their long-term visions align well as both are interested in finding ways to protect the Caribbean through economic development. For example, to scale coral restoration, there’s obviously a need to stop things that are negatively impacting corals, and a corresponding need to increase the scope and scale of restoration techniques.

To do both of those things correctly, resources are needed and questions must be answered. Namely, how can reefs be restored in an efficient, cost-effective manner that creates economic opportunities and jobs? That’s where the value lies in the long-term. Bluetide’s recent exploratory visit was self-funded and an opportunity to showcase their vessel to the Dominican Republic’s government. Each successive trip to the Dominican Republic will need its own “business plan” in terms of the necessary resources to make the trip a success.

Placement of artificial coral on sea bed

Courtesy of Bluetide

As part of its expedition to the Dominican Republic, Bluetide also took the initiative and arranged government visits with several high-ranking officials. FGP helped Bluetide establish a relationship with ANAMAR, the National Authority of Maritime Affairs for the Dominican Republic, an agency created “to provide the Dominican State with the necessary technical, scientific, and legal tools for research, conservation, and sustainable use of existing living and non-living resources of the sea in our maritime spaces”. Jake Kheel of FGP described ANAMAR as a research organization evaluating new technologies. Bluetide is interested in working with ANAMAR to support its activities in areas that will be used to promote economic development and tourism. There are some concerns regarding the potential impact of these activities on coral reefs, something that Bluetide will help to mitigate.

Bluetide is also working with other organizations in the Dominican Republic, such as Reef Check Dominican Republic, a foundation focused on marine resources conservation and Infotep, an organization that provides vocational education. Bluetide’s partnerships with both organizations are centered on the development of training programs in sectors related to marine research, technological development, scientific diving, strategic planning, and execution. Bluetide will work with Reef Check Dominican Republic on training with a goal of further developing marine conservation, and Bluetide will work with Infotep to train needed technicians in these industries.

Other examples of Bluetide’s initiatives include collaborations with the nonprofit Techmyschool, universities (matching them with grassroots organizations), fishing villages, sustainability programs with coastal communities, coastal preparedness curricula and programs, and disaster preparedness/disaster management programs. An example of Bluetide’s disaster preparedness programs is a relatively new one called “Disaster Preparedness for Fisheries”, which will impact four pilot fishing villages in the east of Puerto Rico. These will receive safety and fishing gear, as well as participate in a disaster preparedness course in which they will create a risk mitigation plan to achieve business continuity after a disaster event. Another interesting success tied to the development of the Blue Economy is the drone reconnaissance that was done with Bluetide’s help during Hurricane Fiona to generate thermal infrared imaging.

Suffice it to say that Bluetide is in the midst of a flurry of exciting activities and collaborations in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and other parts of the Caribbean. Bluetide continues to look for new partners and collaborators as it continues its journey with the Blue Economy Resilience Initiative.

This article is Part Ten of a series produced by Impact Entrepreneur about current and planned “blue economy” and resilience initiatives in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and broader Caribbean. This series is an outreach effort to communicate the Blue Economy Course of Action ECN 10 found in the Economic and Disaster Recovery Plan for Puerto Rico and bluetidepr.org. Other articles in the series are listed below as they appear.

I. A New Framework for Economic Revitalization in Puerto Rico

II. Measuring Impact in Puerto Rico’s Emerging Blue Economy

III. Resilience: Two experts discuss its importance to the impact economy

IV. Restoring Coral Reefs Is One Key to Puerto Rico’s Economic Future

V. Technology and Sustainability: A Way Forward for Puerto Rico?

VI. El Bienestar Común, or How Puerto Rico is Taking Care of Itself

VII. Public-Private Partnerships Can Lead to More Local Ownership

VIII. Puerto Rico’s Place on ‘Hurricane Highway’ Key to Economic Growth

IX. Blue Your Mind: Innovations Feeding the Fishing Industry and Catalyzing the Blue Economy

Allison Lee is co-founder of Alpine CSR Advisors, which specializes in CSR/ESG strategy and implementation, with a focus on business and social impact metrics. Allison has several years of experience in the CSR/ESG sector, and previously worked at MIT, the Center for Corporate Citizenship, Cone Communications, FSG Social Impact Advisors, ... Read more

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