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Florida’s New Office of Ocean Economy Seeks to Spur Discovery

The new state department will be housed at Florida Atlantic University. It seeks to harness public and private research, education, technology and business applications involving fresh and salt water.

Florida’s new Office of Ocean Economy — a statewide effort to harness public and private research, education, technology and business applications involving water — will be housed at Florida Atlantic University.

The effort, which envisions a collaboration among all state universities and businesses, was sponsored by Democratic and Republican state lawmakers from South Florida.

State Rep. Chip LaMarca, R- Lighthouse Point, described the program last week during a Broward Legislative Delegation gathering in Davie.

He worked with and credited his House co-sponsor, state Rep. Kelly Skidmore, a Palm Beach County Democrat, and state Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat who represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Speaking to lawmakers who gathered at FAU’s Davie campus, interim president Stacy Volnick, said hosting the new statewide office would help bring about “an even brighter future” for the university.

“We are establishing the infrastructure needed to ensure a stable, robust economy for generations to follow,” Skidmore said in a statement.


Even though it’s called “ocean,” LaMarca said it encompasses anything that involves water, whether it’s fresh or ocean.

Water is already “the backbone of Florida’s economy,” LaMarca said.

He said the new office aims to spur the development of discoveries, and take them from the pages of medical or scientific journals and help them become products that advance medical science or are commercially successful.

“Anything that comes out of water, science experimentation, can we bring it to market?” LaMarca said.

The office is charged with fostering relationships among the 12 public universities and private institutions such as Nova Southeastern University or the University of Miami.

The law itself said the program’s objectives are the “economic uses of ocean and coastal resources with a focus on sustainable practices that benefit the long-term outlook of relevant industry sectors and the competitive positioning of the state in a global economy.”

Skidmore predicted the office would help make Florida the premier, internationally recognized place for research and innovation related to the blue, or water, economy.


As often happens in Tallahassee, politics was involved in the issue.

LaMarca said the legislation involves “blue water science.” Skidmore said the concept is known globally as the “blue economy.”

The World Bank defines the blue economy as the “sustainable use of ocean resources to benefit economies, livelihoods and ocean ecosystem health.”

When first introduced, the legislation said it was to establish “the Office of the Blue Economy.”

Republicans who control state government decided that the law would use the term “ocean economy” rather than “blue economy.”

The proposal, House Bill 1311, stalled as stand-alone legislation.

It was incorporated into House Bill 1285, which included changes in the way in which people are allowed to challenge school library books and makes it easier for charter schools to take over operations at traditional public schools that aren’t performing well.

It was signed into law last month by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and takes effect July 1.

©2024 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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