The 7th Annual Marine Economics and Policy Research Symposium was held on Thursday, 24 November, in the Glenlo Abbey Hotel, Galway. Organised each year by the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU ) of the Whitaker Institute, NUI Galway, with the support of the Marine Institute, the day provides participants with an update on a wide range of policy topics related to the marine sector in Ireland. This year there was a particular focus on the valuation of marine ecosystem services and benefits to society.
Until recently, very little information was available in relation to the value of the many ecosystem services provided by the marine environment; services such as carbon sequestration, waste assimilation, coastal defence, aesthetic services and recreational opportunities that are provided by our marine ecosystems have by and large gone unvalued.
Harnessing our Ocean Wealth (HOOW ) - the integrated marine plan for Ireland (2012 ) - highlighted as a key action the need for further research into generating “economic values of marine biodiversity and ecosystem services to ensure best practice planning and management of the ocean resource”.
Indeed, from an economics perspective, HOOW is all about maximising the net benefits to society from the use of our substantial marine resources. This symposium highlights ongoing research in this area from across Ireland and further afield. In particular it highlights new policy initiatives attempting to ensure ‘blue growth’; an expanding but sustainable ocean economy, and new research that values the benefits to society generated from the continued delivery of what are often overlooked critical marine ecosystem services.
“Blue growth is about fostering development in marine economic activities in such a manner that the long term ability of the marine environment to continue to provide ecosystem service benefits is not compromised. This is exactly what Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth – An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland is aimed at achieving,” says Dr Stephen Hynes of SEMRU at NUI Galway. “Knowing what those benefits are and what they are worth is vital for deciding on the best use of our marine resources and to ensure blue growth for our ocean economy far into the future.”
Speakers this year included leading international experts in the field of environmental valuation Professor Nick Hanley of St. Andrews University Scotland, Dr Kathrine Skoland of the International Research Institute of Stavanger, Norway, and Dr Danny Campbell of Stirling University.
Other speakers of note on the day included Professor Ronán Long of NUI Galway who reviewed progress in the negotiation of a new international instrument for the protection of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction and Dr Ronan Lyons of Trinity College Dublin who presented research using a rich house price dataset from Daft.ie to investigate if people value having a ‘picture’ of the coast via a window in their house more than having direct access to the coast for recreational purposes. The analysis demonstrated the addition to residential property value from having a sea view or access to coastal features such as beaches and cliffs.
Of interest from a policy perspective Ciarán O’ Driscoll, a research associate of SEMRU, explored the impact of Brexit on European Fishing policy arguing that due to Britain’s international commitments to cooperate under UN law, post-Brexit Britain may not be able to reclaim control over setting fishing quotas and limit access to its waters by non-British vessels unilaterally. In the same session Richard Cronin, a senior advisor in the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government outlined the key research needs of Irish policy makers that would support the implementation of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the EU Maritime Spatial Planning Directive in Ireland and across the EU.
The final session of the day presented a number of papers that examined the publics, stakeholders and consumers’ attitudes towards aquaculture and seafood. These cross country comparisons of perspectives provided information to policy makers, public planners and potential investors on how the public regard aquaculture production and identify areas of conflict and consensus between groups.