Interview with Kendra McDonald

The Impact of an All-Atlantic Approach – Kendra MacDonald

In the first of our series of All-Atlantic Conversations, Joanne Sweeney interviews Kendra MacDonald, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster CEO, on the impact of an All-Atlantic approach.


So what impact do you think that an All-Atlantic approach is going to make?

Canada’s Ocean Supercluster is really trying to grow the Canadian ocean economy, but we’re doing that by changing the way ocean business is done. So really trying to make an ocean economy that is more collaborative, inclusive, digital, and sustainable. I think those themes really resonate at an Atlantic level as well. So how do we work together to really be able to accelerate both the growth of the ocean economy, but also our ability to tackle some of the challenges that the ocean is facing? A couple of ways that come to mind, one is certainly when it comes to data. How do we do a better job of sharing data, creating data, getting disparate data sets to talk to each other? It’s both in terms of Western knowledge and indigenous knowledge. How do we collect all data and information to allow all of us to make better decisions around the Atlantic? I think the second piece is being able to build off each other’s strengths. I think there are lots of unique strengths in this Atlantic region. So how do we learn from each other in terms of science, in terms of research, as well as in terms of innovative thinking? Because we all benefit from being able to do this better, from being more connected and then really being well positioned to all work together towards a healthier and more productive ocean.

What are the steps and the actions that need to be taken to realize your vision?

Finding the right champion in terms of being able to identify what are those strengths, and then really being able to set the action plan for how we have those ongoing conversations. When it comes to data, I think we’ve got a balance of those that are trying to sort of own the data or create this massive ocean data repository. I think what I see as much more, how do we work together to identify kind of common data framework? So that we’re all sort of able to create our own data, but have the capacity to be able to share that data across.

How will that translate into the real world? Let’s say that you do achieve your goal of shared data, what will that mean then in a practical sense?

When we think about sustainable ocean, the health of our ocean, the power of having real time data around fish movements and more broadly species, will allow us to make better decisions when we’re thinking about marine spatial planning, when we’re thinking about marine protected areas, where we’re just making decisions around shipping lanes, all those types of things can be better informed if we had more data.

Do you think that we are closer or further away from achieving that goal?

I think we’re closer. I mean, we are in between what we’ve seen come out of the high-level panel on sustainability, which is again, multiple jurisdictions working together. If we look at the UN decade of ocean and the importance of data as part of that conversation, I think there is a general awareness of both the importance and the power of data. I think we’re still trying to figure out again, we all agree on the power, but then how do we operationalize making it happen? But we are definitely closer because I think everyone gets it. We’re just trying to figure out how to then get it there.

What organizations/individuals/countries/citizens have this data that you need?

I think part of the challenge is there’s lots of ocean data sets. So the research community and the academic community has lots of datasets. You’ve got companies who have collected data for various reasons, and they’ve got different agreements on how and when they can share that data. You’re increasingly seeing the citizen science movement. So how do we engage the broader public in terms of being able to collect data? And then you’ve got organizations that are more focused on ocean data as well for specific decision-making. So that’s a bit of the challenge. So we’ve got two challenges. One, there’s so much of the ocean that we still don’t understand that is unmapped. So the whole seabed mapping initiative, and then we’ve got all these disparate datasets that don’t necessarily talk to each other that are all existing out there that we could really get more value from.

Thank you so much for sharing your vision with us and no doubt that when everybody comes together at All-Atlantic 2021, this topic is going to be one of those that is going to continue over the three days but beyond.


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