Fishing boats and cages at Dun Laoghaire, Dublin. Photo: Coast Monkey Photography

Oceans of Learning explores Ireland’s blue economy

As part of the national Oceans of Learning campaign to celebrate our seas, the Marine Institute and partners are offering a new podcast series, educational videos and short films, news and online resources all about our oceans.

This week's Oceans of Learning resources, available on the Marine Institute's website at Our Ocean: Our Livelihoods, focus on how the ocean is key to our economy and essential to sustaining livelihoods and Ireland's coastal communities.

Our ocean is a national asset, supporting a diverse marine economy with vast potential to tap into a global marine market for seafood, tourism, oil and gas, the renewable ocean energy and new applications for health, medicine and technology. With an annual turnover of approximately €5.8 billion, Ireland's ocean economy makes a significant contribution to the Irish economy and provides full-time employment for 31,000 people.

Established marine industries account for 93% of total marine turnover. This is dominated by both shipping and maritime transport, as well as tourism and leisure in marine and coastal areas. Ireland's seafood resources also have a significant role in our ocean economy, with Bord Iascaigh Mhara reporting the consumption, net exports and investment in Ireland's seafood industry worth a combined total of €1.1 billion in 2020.

Ireland's marine territory has the potential to support a wide range of economic activities and to tap into global marine and maritime markets. Emerging industries in the marine and maritime sector include advanced marine technology products and services, marine commerce, marine renewable energy, and marine biotechnology and bio-products.

To support Ireland's marine sector, the Marine Ireland Industry Network provides collaboration and promotion opportunities for its members, both nationally and internationally. The network includes a diverse array of companies, state organisations, research groups and higher education institutes, working in Ireland's blue economy.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, said: “The future of Ireland's marine sector and our coastal communities will depend on the sustainable management of this precious resource. Ireland's initial integrated marine plan, Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, which developed a cross-government approach in partnership with industry, has significantly increased the focus on the value of our marine economy.

“Under the new programme for government, the government will develop a new sustainable successor plan to maintain momentum, in terms of economic development, while simultaneously protecting our marine resources.”

Mick Gillooly, joint acting CEO at the Marine Institute, added: “With a marine territory 10 times the size of our landmass, our ocean plays an important role in our economy through sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture, ports and shipping, technology, tourism and marine renewable energy. Many communities, but in particular our coastal communities, depend on our vast ocean wealth for employment, leisure and wellbeing. The Marine Institute works with partners to support a sustainable blue economy through research, infrastructure, advisory services and maritime development opportunities.”

In the second episode of the Oceans of Learning podcast, out this week, host Finn van der Aar speaks with a range of guests about the influence the ocean has on their work and their lives. Hear from Tahlia Britton, the first female to join the Irish Naval Service Diving Unit in 2020, and Patricia Comiskey, SEAI, about Ireland's growing marine renewable energy sector, and Tracey Ryan, herbal alchemist and managing director for Codex Beauty Ireland, a plant-based biotechnology company. Finn also speaks to Joe Silke, director of marine environment and food safety services at the Marine Institute, about supporting marine industries through licensing, monitoring programmes and marine spatial planning.

This week the Marine Institute has also partnered with Teagasc, the state agency providing research, advisory and education in agriculture, horticulture, food and rural development in Ireland, and Seavite, the Irish seaweed-based skincare range to bring you some interesting insights into seaweed in Ireland. Seaweed harvesting is a traditional occupation in many coastal areas around Ireland and seaweed has many valuable uses, including its use in food products, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

To view the suite of resources available for Oceans of Learning this week, visit Our Ocean: Our Livelihoods at The Oceans of Learning podcast is available to download from Apple Podcasts and Spotify.