New England Ocean Cluster has teamed up with Bristol Seafood to dedicate space in its coworking facility on Commercial Street for women, people of color and other groups underrepresented in the marine industry. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — Bristol Seafood, a fixture on the Portland waterfront since 1992, has launched a new program to help the business ventures of those who are underrepresented in the “blue economy.”

Bristol Seafoods will provide workspace at The Hus, a new coworking and collaboration space at New England Ocean Cluster on Commercial Street, and mentoring opportunities for women and people of color from non-marine industries with marine-related passions through its Inclusion in the Blue Economy initiative.

“That is an underrepresented sector of the seafood industry,” said Iréne Moon, vice president of marketing for Bristol Seafood. “We would love to get them more involved. This is a small way to do that.”

The Hus opened last month as a place to collaborate on issues impacting marine-based businesses. Courtesy / New England Ocean Cluster

Patrick Arnold, co-founder and CEO of New England Ocean Cluster, said diversity will only help the work that is occurring at the New England Ocean Cluster, which opened The Hus in June.

“The more diverse a group of people we can bring in, the more likely, we think, important innovation occurs,” Arnold said. “With innovation, it always occurs better in a group, a community.”

Peter Handy, president and CEO of Bristol Seafood, said the program aligns with the company’s mission.

“Innovation and inclusion are two essential parts of our culture and our office at the New England Ocean Cluster and founding sponsorship of Inclusion in the Blue Economy reflect that,” he said.

The blue economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem,” according to the World Bank.

Arnold said he is excited to see what comes of the Inclusion in the Blue Economy program.

“In some cases they have never done ocean-related work before, but they bring such value,” Arnold. “The ocean is the one thing that connects the world.”

The Hus was originally suppose to open in March, but that was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Arnold said. Although social distancing has made in-person collaboration harder, it has not stopped New England Ocean Cluster from fulfilling its vision to offer a space where businesses, entrepreneurs and scientists can come together to work on marine-related endeavors.

“Creative endeavors and collaboration is occurring even with social distancing in place,” Arnold said.

Much like other businesses across the city, Arnold said strict health protocols have been put in place at The Hus to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Sanitation occurs twice a day, glass partitions at work stations have been added, masks are required and those at the center are reminded to adhere to proper social distancing and hygiene practices.

The Hus, Norwegian for house, consists of 18 glass offices and 14 desks for coworking and collaboration.

The New England Ocean Cluster, according to the organization, was founded in 2014 in partnership with the Icelandic Ocean Cluster in Reykjavik to connect people within the ocean economy by encouraging innovative and sustainable products and business practices.

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