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Minister Creed's address at Our Ocean Wealth Summit, 28 June 2018

Minister Creed Address - Our Ocean Wealth Summit, 28 June 2018


Following this Morning’s seafood focussed sessions which discussed the significant challenges posed by Brexit, I am delighted to welcome you all here this afternoon for our next sessions of the day which will concentrate on the wider Blue Growth agenda and the challenges of future proofing our ocean economy and investing on offshore renewables.

Conference Themes

This year’s summit agenda encompasses a broad range of sectors and will explore the challenges and opportunities for our marine sector, with a focus on Brexit, Sustainability and Market Trends. This afternoon’s first session puts the theme of the Summit within a wider context of climate change and sustainability as future economic growth and human wellbeing will depend upon our capacity to deal with and adapt to a changing ocean environment.

Following a short video address from EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, our distinguished former President, Mary Robinson, will deliver the keynote address to the summit. Later today Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughton will be speaking on the challenges for offshore renewables. The summit will continue tomorrow with sessions on Integrated Digital Ocean, Technology and Data, Maritime Commerce & Brexit all moderated by Olivia O’Leary, who we welcome back to Galway. My colleagues, Damien English, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development & Seán Kyne Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Natural Resources will be key contributors tomorrow.


I am conscious that this is the 5th year of our OOW Summits and the 4th year of the associated SEAFEST (maritime festival) which celebrates the many ways our seas and oceans enrich our lives. Now attracting more than 100,000 visitors, SeaFest has recently been nominated for 2 prestigious Event Industry Awards, to be announced on July 20in Dublin. 

Key Challenges for the future

Ireland has taken important strides in recent years in developing our blue economy.  The publication of Harnessing our ocean wealth in 2012 ushered in a period of change in terms of facilitating development of our marine economy. This is being driven at the highest levels of Government and represents a unique and joined up approach to growing Ireland’s blue economy. The work of our cross Departmental high level Marine Coordination Group (MCG) which I chair will continue as we seek to build on recent success.

Significant challenges are facing us however; we discussed the most high profile of these (Brexit) earlier but there are others;

Climate Change will be one of the most important challenges for the marine sector and for society generally. As a nation Ireland has developed strong capabilities in managing our marine resources. This knowledge and experience can also be important on a global stage.

Plastic pollution and particularly the issue of microplastics in the ocean is another key challenge. Here in Ireland in common with the growing global awareness of this issue we are taking action but a solution will require significant cultural change. Initiatives supported by my own Department through the work of our key agencies, Marine Institute and BIM are underpinning important localised initiatives such as the cleancoast campaign.  Our agencies are also contributing to International Collaborative fora in this area. Orla Doherty, Irish born producer of BBC’s Blue Planet Programme is with us today, mainstream media has played a pivotal role in raising awareness of this issue.

Oceans a shared resource/ AORA/Galway Statement

The ocean and seas are a shared resource and we can make progress on the challenges ahead only if we work collaboratively with other countries. Through the Horizon 2020 programme for example, the EU under the guidance of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (AORA) has invested €140m in Research & Innovation projects focused on Atlantic Ocean challenges. With support from this funding, more than 500 research teams are now engaged in research across many countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean.

This May marked the five year Anniversary of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation, promoted by Ireland's Presidency of the EU and the creation of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (AORA) between the European Union, Canada and the United States of America.  Within those five years, AORA has been highlighting international best practices & promoting key priorities of the European Union's Atlantic Strategy and Atlantic Action Plan, embodied in the Galway Statement. Ireland through the work of the Marine Institute has been at the centre of these initiatives.  Transatlantic cooperation has brought together scientific teams in Atlantic-wide field campaigns on Seabed mapping, Ocean Observation, Seafood, Weather, Climate and Polar research, Marine Biotechnology and Marine Spatial Planning. With the signing of the Belém Statement on Atlantic Research & Innovation Cooperation between the EU, South Africa & Brazil, an All Atlantic Research Community is gradually being built with Ireland playing a central role.  AORA using the latest technology to map the Atlantic is making groundbreaking discoveries like previously uncharted undersea volcanoes and mountains, circulation patterns, and more.

These coordinated efforts are helping to create a blueprint for the next generation of ocean observation. And, there's still more uncover, new sources of energy & food, potentially lifesaving medicines. Learning about our oceans will enable us to create a world with better; navigation, weather prediction, smarter search and rescue, health & a thriving sustainable seafood industry to feed generations to come.

The recent proclamation of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)  will gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can support countries in the achievement of the UNs own Sustainable Development Goal on the oceans.

Ocean Economy and Business Development

The updated economic statistics published today (by SEMRU) indicate that the direct economic value of Ireland’s ocean economy now stands at €2billion or approximately 1% of GDP, which represents a 21% increase on 2015 figures.  The 2017 estimates also suggest that our ‘blue economy’ continues to grow at a faster pace than the general economy – a trend emerging across Europe’s maritime nations. Ireland’s ocean economy continues to see substantial growth across established and emerging marine industries.  Growth in 2017 is being driven by strong performances in the aquaculture, sea fisheries, shipping and marine tourism industries as well as continued growth in the emerging ocean industries. (FTEs)

A really encouraging statistic is the growth in employment for the marine sector which has risen from 27,888 (FTEs) in 2015 to an estimated 32,509 (FTEs) in 2017, an increase of 16.6%. Emerging sectors are also showing positive trends and well represented at the ‘Marine Ireland’ Trade Show here today and tomorrow.

OOW Review 2017 (Published Today)

The OOW Progress report which you have a copy of in your conference  packs provides a wealth of information across all three goals and associated actions of Ireland’s I.M.P – spanning governance, research, education, international cooperation, business development, sustainability & protection and conservation of marine ecosystems. This report covers inputs from across state departments & agencies. I commend those involved in producing the report.

Increased Engagement of State Agencies

One of the initiatives in this year’s progress report includes a focus on companies profiled by State development agencies, many of whom you will find at the Trade Show showcasing their innovative technologies, products & Services. In the last year we have seen continued cooperation across the State development agencies supporting our marine sector. The integrated and coordinated approach to developing our blue economy is evident in the progress report and on the ground today at the Summit, Trade Fair and from tomorrow over the weekend at SeaFest.  Under the collaborative banner/logo of ‘Marine Ireland’ we have seen Irish SMEs showcase their products abroad. E.g. the ‘Marine Ireland’ stand at Oceanology 2018 in London and Blue Tech Week events in San Diego, London and Oslo.

The Government marine strategy places a focus on several emerging marine sectors such as marine ICT and IOT (internet of things), marine renewable energy, marine biotechnology and maritime commerce. Ireland has also invested significantly in developing its research and innovation capabilities in ocean observation to support a growing national blue economy. Irish expertise in areas such as sensors, platforms, communications, robotics, informatics, computer vision and advanced materials are being leveraged to deliver new ways to drive innovation and growth across global marine markets. Enterprise Ireland client companies exhibiting at the Trade Show demonstrate the capability of Irish companies in this space.

Ireland as a Hub for the Blue Economy

Ireland has developed international links and supporting mechanisms so that marine technology companies, entrepreneurs and researchers view Ireland as a location to develop, test and validate innovative marine technologies. Ireland is promoting its excellent geographical location, existing IoT and ICT expertise and national infrastructure across the global marine industry.
Enterprise Ireland, in cooperation with other government agencies, has developed the Irish Marine Industry Network to facilitate increased national cooperation in the marine sector and outreach with international partners. Strong national investments have also been made in areas of ocean observation and seabed mapping in Ireland. These are still global challenges, and have led to business opportunities through marine technology, engineering and science.

Ireland’s reputation in international financial services is helping attract businesses involved in maritime commerce. This work is being supported internationally by IDA Ireland and IMDO. There are other initiatives being pipelined too numerous to mention here today but evidence that our Marine sector is healthy and buoyant and poised for further growth.

MSP – Marine Spatial Plan

Sustainable expansion of our ocean industries needs to be underpinned by a Marine Spatial Plan. The MSP Roadmap published by Government in December last year has led to a focus on this area at Central Government level. The attendances at recent MSP public consultations show the level of interest in our seas.

Summary – Smart Development

Science underpinned by professional research, good Governance and reliable data will provide the key to our sustainable marine future. If we look to the ocean to provide us with answers to some of our key challenges such as, sustainable food supply, energy and health care, we need ensure that the resource itself is managed smartly and sustainably, protected & properly mapped. By pursuing a sustainable developmental approach in areas such as fisheries, energy, and other important economic areas and minimising pollutants from entering the oceans, we can successfully harness our ocean wealth for the benefit of all including the coastal communities which depend on it.

I wish you all an enjoyable and stimulating summit.