Ireland’s oceans are an extraordinary natural resource with massive potential yet to be tapped, according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, who was speaking at a national marine economy conference held in Malahide, Co Dublin, on Tuesday last.
Mayo county councillor Cyril Burke, chairman of the BMW Regional Assembly, who opened the /BMW Conference entitled ‘The Marine Economy: A key component of the EU Integrated Strategy for the Atlantic Area’, reported that Ireland’s ocean economy generates €3.4bn in turnover a year, employs 17,000 people, and is part of a €1.2 trillion global industry.
Councillor Burke identified the potential of marine renewable energies, seafood, shipping, biotechnology, and marine tourism. The value of these emerging sectors was also emphasised by Dr Peter Heffernan, chief executive of the Marine Institute, who highlighted that Ireland’s marine area was 10 times its land area. Dr Heffernan stated that Ireland had the research capacity, the specialised infrastructures, and the international linkages to be a world leader in converging marine technologies.
Minister Coveney called for greater ambition in Ireland to fulfil the obvious potential within the marine sector.
Other speakers at the conference presented innovative joint projects that had been supported under the Atlantic Area Interreg Programme, in sectors such as shipping, marine tourism, ocean energy, responding to maritime disasters, and sustainable fisheries management. The conference was attended by 170 delegates from across the Atlantic Area from public and private organisations, local and regional authorities, universities and research institutions.
Speaking following the conference, Gerry Finn, director of the BMW Regional Assembly, stated that the conference had been held at a key time for the marine sector in Ireland with both a national marine plan and an EU-sponsored strategy for the Atlantic Area under preparation. He welcomed Minister Coveney’s positive and ambitious plans for the sector which would, he said, be of enormous significance for the BMW region in the years ahead.