Icebergs are just the tip of St. John’s ocean economy

Thanks to its location on the eastern edge of North America, St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland & Labrador, has earned a reputation around the globe for its icebergs, whales and seabirds. Whether from the vast coastline or on the water, there are countless opportunities to view the many species of whales, large seabird colonies and massive icebergs that pass by each year. 

The ocean not only supports tourism in the region, but it also contributes to a vibrant ocean sciences hub that provides resources and jobs across a number of industries, such as offshore energy production, marine maintenance, fisheries and aquaculture, and ocean technology and sciences. Today, the city’s oceans economy employs some 37,000 people and contributes more than CA $16 billion to the economies of the province and Canada. 

A rich history 

St. Johns has a long history when it comes to its relationship with the ocean. For thousands of years, Indigenous Peoples hunted, fished and settled in the province. With its proximity to fishing grounds, St. John’s become a commercial trading outpost for European fishers in the sixteenth century — and fish stores and warehouses were constructed to accommodate the trade that flourished in the region. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, St. John’s was a major commercial service centre for the Newfoundland fishery.  

Fast forward to the 21st century, and the province began to expand into additional industries, like offshore oil production — creating a new bond with the ocean that has sustained it for so long. In the decades that followed, the region’s centuries of experience working in, on or under the ocean turned St. John’s into a world leader in the growing global ocean economy.  

Canada’s ocean city powerhouse 

Today, St John’s is known for its ocean tech and innovation, advanced post-secondary institutions and world-class research facilities.   

St. John’s research facilities are some of the most advanced in Canada, such as the Ocean, Coastal and River Engineering Research Centre — which is home to the world’s longest ice tank, which allows for the evaluation of ocean vessel performance in simulated icy conditions. Thanks to its acclaimed academic institutions, St. John’s is also considered one of the best places in the world to receive an advanced education in oceans. In fact, Memorial University is the only Canadian university included in the list of the world’s top post-secondary institutions for the study of marine and ocean engineering.  

St. John’s is also home to Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, a national, industry-led cluster that’s driving cross-sectoral collaboration, accelerating innovation and growing Canada’s ocean economy. With CA $306 million in total funding, the supercluster is investing in many of St. John’s companies and institutions. eDNAtec, a leading innovator in environmental DNA technologies, is one of them. The company is revolutionizing how to assess, monitor and characterize the ocean. Its OceanDNA System has applications across ocean sectors and has the power to help inform sustainable ocean management and activity. 

We are basically a rock in the middle of the Atlantic, where the Labrador current often meets the Gulf Stream, but we’ve built a strong ocean research community in this harsh environment and we have a critical mass of expertise, the voice of the province’s ocean technology sector. We also have a thriving cross-sectoral oceans industry community, with firms competing with and surpassing global competitors.

Cathy Hogan, executive director for Oceans Advance Inc.

A place to meet — and more 

As the epicentre of the national ocean innovation ecosystem, St. John’s is a popular host destination for business events in the sector. When conference-goers meet in the city, they can gain access to local thought leaders and industry innovators who are shaping the future. Many of the 450 local companies operating in the global oceans sector are also more than happy to provide tours of their facilities to showcase their products and services. 

“Our companies specialize in everything that's cutting-edge, including ocean sensors, marine robotics equipment, sub-sea cameras and acoustic imaging,” says Cathy, “and they’re here with open arms. Everybody in the province recognizes the importance of oceans, and we want to share our knowledge with the world. It’s in our blood.” 

Organizations can also infuse their meeting agendas with local culture and experiences. When meetings break, delegates can live it up on famous and beautiful George Street, see whales in their natural habitat by guided boat tour, wander the picturesque fishing village of Quidi Vidi Gut and so much more. 

A breeze to get to 

St. John’s is the closest Canadian province to Europe, and has the same latitude as Paris and Seattle, which means St. John’s harbour is a haven for transatlantic travellers and a bustling commercial port.  Delegates can also fly on one of the many carriers into St. John’s, such as Air Canada, Porter Airlines, PAL Airlines, Sunwing, Air Transat and WestJet. 

Meetings with purpose 

By enriching programming with industry innovators and meaningful localized tours, business event organizers can attract more delegates, increase revenues, and inspire future generations. 

“We call that ‘meeting with purpose’, says Cathy, pointing out that St. John’s is poised to show of its expansive oceans ecosystem. 

Plan your meeting in St. John’s HERE