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Attending the Marine Economy Conference in Malahide were (L-R): Mr. Gerry Finn, Director, BMW Regional Assembly, Mr. Pat Colgan, Chief Executive, Special EU Programmes Body, Mr. Simon Coveney T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Councillor Cyril Burke, Chairman, BMW Regional Assembly and Dr. Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive, Marine Institute.

Time to exploit our extraordinary marine resources – Minister

Ireland’s oceans were described as an extraordinary natural resource by Simon Coveney, TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine at a marine economy conference held in Malahide, Co. Dublin on Tuesday last. The Conference entitled ‘The Marine Economy: A key component of the EU Integrated Strategy for the Atlantic Area’ was hosted by the Border, Midland and Western (BMW) Regional Assembly, on behalf of the Interreg Atlantic Area Programme.

Opening the conference, Councillor Cyril Burke, Chairman of the BMW Regional Assembly stated that Ireland’s ocean economy generates €3.4bn in turnover per annum, employs 17,000 people and is part of a €1.2trillion 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 ten 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 informed the conference of his Department’s role in the preparation of an integrated marine plan for Ireland and invited submissions from all stakeholders before the end of March next. Minister Coveney stated that the marine sector was a huge global industry with the potential to generate sustainable wealth and that Ireland has the capacity to take a leadership position in marine technologies, building on the world class research and innovation facilities here, including those at the Marine Institute and at NUIG in Galway. He welcomed the EU’s proposed Atlantic Strategy and stated that Ireland would be at the heart of this new strategy. He called for greater ambition in Ireland to fulfil the obvious potential within the marine sector.

Speaking on behalf of the EU Commission, Matthew King described the process facilitated by the Directorate-General for Marine Affairs to develop an agreed integrated strategy for the Atlantic Area and was currently engaged in consultation with each Member State to generate new ideas and priority actions.

Teresa Lameiras, from the Portuguese Managing Authority for the Atlantic Area Interreg Programme, outlined the programme to the conference and described how the trans-national projects co-funded under the programme were contributing to the sustainable exploitation of marine resources. This programme has supported 69 Irish partners to the value of €10.2m since 2008. Ms. Lameiras stated that the Atlantic Area Interreg Programme offered an ideal vehicle to implement joint actions under the Atlantic Area strategy.

Dr. Stephen Hynes presented the work of the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit at NUI Galway and its development of expertise in the construction of comprehensive databases on the economic value of marine sectors in Ireland.

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, Mr. 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 be of enormous significance for the BMW region in the years ahead.


Conference Presentations

The components of the EU Atlantic Area Strategy - Mr Matthew King, Head of Unit for Maritime Policy in the Atlantic, Arctic and Outermost Regions, DG Mare, European Commission

Marine co-operation in the Atlantic Area Programme – Achievements, Opportunities and challenge: Mrs.Teresa Lameiras, Managing Authority, Atlantic Area Programme Porto

The importance of the Atlantic Area Strategy to the development of the Atlantic marine economy - Ms. Pauline Caumont, Executive Secretary, Atlantic Arc Commission, Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR)

Ireland’s Marine Economy & its relationship with other Atlantic Area member state marine strategies – Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO, Marine Institute

The Socio Economic Development of the marine sector in the Atlantic Area – Dr. Stephen Hynes, SEMRU, National University of Ireland Galway

Maritime Transport & Short Sea Shipping PROPOSSE project - Capt Michael Mc Carthy, Port of Cork, IE

Marine Leisure & Water sports Tourism – NEA 2 project – François Arbellot, Regional Council of Brittany, FR

Marine Renewables as a growing sector – MAREN project – Bettina Bockelman Evans, Cardiff University, UK

Response management to marine disasters – ARCOPOL project – Marisa Fernandez, Centro Tecnologica del Mar Fundacion, Es

Integrated Coastal Fisheries management - PRESPO project- Mr. Miguel Gaspar, Instituto Nacional de Recursos Biologicos (IPIMAR), Pt

Mr. Gerry Finn's Interview with Marcus Connaughton on RTE Radio 1 - Friday, February 3rd 2012