18th October

Marine 'business as usual' no longer an option, says Coveney

The marine sector could deliver over 29,000 additional jobs and an addditonal €2.7bn in economic growth by 2020. "Ireland is now firmly on what I believe is an unstoppable voyage of marine expansion."

Simon Coveney, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, was addressing over 500 delegates at the second annual Harnessing our Ocean Wealth conference at the National Maritime College of Ireland (July 9).

Seafest 2015

Publication in 2012 of Ireland's first 'blueprint' for the marine, which straaddles nine departments on the government's Marine Coordination Group, has begun a peocess of "radical change" in the approach to marine policy. Government commitment to the sector is reinforced by the "first ever review on taxation" to be reflected in the October budget, he added.

Premium performer

According to the latest report on Ireland’s ocean economy, compiled by NUI Galway’s Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) and Teagasc, the sector contributed roughly €1.4bn to GDP in 2014.

Results are encouraging, reflecting the economic recovery that Ireland is experiencing, according Dr Stephen Hynes, SEMRU:

“On average, the blue economy is performing better than the general economy ― up to 9% growth over the last five years. With an estimated turnover of €4.5bn, the sector employs approximately 18,500 Full-Time Equivalents. New data shows that in addition to direct impact, a further 13,000 are employed across the wider economy, providing an additional €3.3bn in turnover.”

This is the third report from SEMRU as part of its ongoing process of collection and analysis of marine socio-economic data. Results show trends for 2010-2012 and provide an approximate direct value in 2014.

Investment opportunities

The importance of government commitment was also recognised by John Evans, Director of Policy, Innovation and Research Support Services with the Marine Institute, organisers of this year’s event. He praised Minister Coveney for bringing what he said was “a huge amount of enthusiasm to the marine sector”.

Evans also noted the level of interest in investment, evident at two networking sessions:

“We had almost two hundred and fifty people at both events. That’s a clear indicator that the sector is ripe for investment”.

Tara McCarthy, CEO designate of BIM said Ireland’s seafood industry required “a focus on innovation that was, in the first instance, market-led and consumer-led as well as having a technology-driven approach”.

For this to work, she said it would require close co-operation between State agencies such as BIM, Bord Bia, the Marine Institute and the IDA:

“There’s no point however having a product that the scientists find fascinating and amazing and technologically brilliant if no consumer wants it.”

As for how the landscape of marine food production might look in the future, food futurist, Christophe Pelletier said consumers should realise they have the power to change and shape seafood production to be both environmentally friendly sustainable:

“As consumers, we can influence how our food is produced. If consumers start to reject practices that are not sustainable, then such practices are going to disappear.

Consumers should also be aware they are a part of the problem and a part of the solution. And it’s not just about producers, it’s not just about politicians, it must start from the consumer end.”


Key milestones reached since 2012 include a reformed Common Fisheries Policy, finalised under the Irish presidency; a Seafood Development Programme to 2020 of €241m investment; a National Strategy Plan for Aquaculture with target growth of 81,000 tonnes by 2023; marine research (€5.5m award under Horizon 2020 and the Galway Bay Cable project.

Closing his remarks, Minister Coveney said that achieving these targets will require “new thinking” ― to be steered by a Development Task Force of 24 contributors. The DTF identities new approaches to include: ‘marinising’ existing sectors (e.g. energy, IT and food) by extending their businesses into new marine-related markets (ICT for the sea; marine biotechnology and maritime commerce); strengthening established marine industries and developing untapped natural resources or existing resources in new ways.

An Integrated Marine Development Team is also recommended, to drive implementation and instigate and support private sector investment.

Minister Coveney noted publication of an Enablers Task Force which provides a framework for developing a national marine special planning (MSP) process. And he paid tribute to Dr Peter Heffernan, Marine Institute, who chaired the process.

“I believe the outlook for the marine sector is really exciting and the possibilities are endless,” he concluded. “The challenge now is to make the marine sector a leading contributor to the Irish economy and to recognise the potential we have as an island nation to be a major player in the sector internationally.

“Business as usual is no longer an option,” he said.

SEMUR Report - Direct Economic Impacts to 2014

• Turnover of €4.2bn in 2012, rising to an estimated €4.5bn

• Employment for 17,425 individuals Full Time Equivalents, (FTEs) in 2012, estimated to increase to 18,480

• 33% increase in turnover (2010-2012) and estimated increase of 7%. Employment has also steadily risen, with increase of 5-6%

• Top three marine sectors in terms of employment (FTEs): Marine Tourism & Leisure: Employment approx. 6,000 FTEs; Seafood & Bioresources (Fisheries, Aquaculture, Seafood Processing, Biotech/Seaweed): Employment over 5,600 FTEs; Shipping & Maritime Transport (including international shipping services): Employment over 4,100 FTEs

• Top three marine sectors in terms of Turnover and Gross Value Added (GVA): Shipping & Maritime Transport (including international shipping services): €2.2bn turnover, €0.5bn GVA; Seafood: €1bn turnover, €0.4bn GVA; Marine Tourism & Leisure:€0.7bn turnover, €0.3bn GVA

• Established marine industries represent 95% of total turnover and 93% of total employment. Marine retail services, sea fisheries and seafood processing, all experienced significant increase in activity, with turnover, GVA and employment increasing across the sector. The aquaculture sector also exhibited increases, albeit of a smaller scale, across all three variables

• Emerging marine industries representing 5% of turnover and 7% of employment. In comparison to established industries, emerging industries are excelling in terms of growth. High-tech marine products and services; marine biotechnology and bio-products and marine commerce experienced large increases in turnover, GVA and employment. Marine renewable energy experienced a more moderate increase in turnover but a large increase in GVA.

In terms of employment, however, the marine renewables sector experienced a slight decrease with respect to 2010 levels.

• The 2013 Ocean Economy Report referred to the lowest point of the economic contraction (2007-2010), while this report represents a period of slow economic recovery (2010-2012), with a moderate increase in activity ― particularly in the shipping and maritime transport sector; sea fisheries; seafood processing; marine manufacturing; construction and engineering.

Estimates based on recent economic indicators suggest a further increase in activity across established and emerging marine industries in the 2012-2014 period. Combined with confident national economic forecasts recently released, these trends suggest a positive outlook for Ireland’s ocean economy in 2015.

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