Technology and the Blue Economy

Local stakeholders in the Ocean Economy are exploring and embracing various forms of technology to help build out that sector to the benefit of Barbados.

Some of these stakeholders had the opportunity to talk about their efforts during a recent event at Bagnall’s Point Gallery hosted by the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment and National Beautification, Export Barbados, BARNUFO and Blue Shell Productions, to celebrate World Oceans Day. 

Longline captain Everton Brathwaite

Longline captain Everton Brathwaite, who has been a fisherman for over 40 years, utilizes satellite imagery to take the guesswork out of fishing. Those images allow him to know the optimal fishing sites, current patterns, water temperatures, sea surface height and track fish migration. Brathwaite is adamant that such technology is essential to help advance the local fishing industry. He made the point while noting that more young people need to get into fishing to ensure its longevity as an industry in Barbados, and he suggested that it should be introduced at schools as a viable career path. Moreover, the experienced fisherman said there is also room to develop linkages between the fishing and tourism industries, with boats taking tourists out to fish.

“It is technology fishing right now, it is not going 10, 15 miles out there and catching a few fish, that’s fishing of the past, you know what I mean? My fishing is five, six hundred miles out to sea. Some fellas fish 100 miles and may catch three fish, four fish, five fish, but I would do four or five days of fishing and bring ashore 60 or 70 fish,” he said.

Brathwaite explained that while the technology is not always foolproof, and sometimes the fish are not where he expects, it offers multiple areas to choose from, making it less of a guessing game. He told the audience that his investment is more than $1500 per month for the satellite imagery and the satellite phone. 

Also presenting during the session was Dr. Teddy Allen, Marine Meteorologist, Climatologist and Co-Founder of Henet. He said there is scope for services similar to what Captain Brathwaite pays for abroad to be made available in Barbados. Dr. Allen noted that Henet is committed to developing and harnessing innovative marine technology and turning it into potential business for Barbados.

Dr. Teddy Allen

Henet has developed a drone that can measure wave heights, energy, frequency and periods. He said the driving force behind the drone was his love for surfing. So rather than estimating the size of waves by examining photographs and shadows or estimating the size of surfers, their drone removes subjectivity and human error.

“I said to my friends, the technology is there that we can build a drone that has the altimetry and various components, that we can be right over that wave and measure it objectively with a data point, with no discussion, no debate, no panel of experts, no interrogating pictures and stuff like that”.

He continued, “But it is not just surf related, it can be used for renewable energy assessments. If you want to know exactly what’s the wave energy at a certain location, maybe during a big wave event, you can just fly the drone over there, record your information, and you have some valuable data”.

Allen stated that the drone could also be used in port management to determine the best times for vessels to come into port to refuel. It also can be used in multiple ways for research, dynamics and visualization.

“We have a lot of applications that we want to try and do in Barbados, we want to recruit local talent from the universities and try and create Barbados as a hub for marine science technology. I’m part of the World Meteorological Organization Expert Team on Marine Meteorology and Oceanography, and there is a huge push to build a regional hub within the Caribbean for marine science, marine meteorology and oceanography and no one’s really biting at it, because it’s kind of in its infancy. So I want to try and grab it so we can produce the technology, we can outsource it from Barbados,” Dr. Allen said.