Plans to double ocean economy to €6.4bn


TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny has described as “dynamic” a new Government plan to double the value of the State’s ocean wealth by 2030.

The ocean wealth “roadmap”, which Mr Kenny and Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney endorsed at the Marine Institute in Galway yesterday, aims to increase turnover from the ocean economy to more than €6.4 billion within eight years.

Although Ireland has the EU’s third-largest sea area, the report sets a conservative target of doubling gross domestic product (GDP) generated from marine activities from a current 1.2 per cent to 2.4 per cent by 2030.

Britain’s GDP from the marine sector is 4.2 per cent, while the states of Denmark and Norway derive 11 and 20 per cent of GDP respectively from their coastlines.

The new “ocean wealth” plan aims to tap into a global ocean market worth an estimated €1.2 trillion, at a time when the EU and member states have identified the potential of “blue growth”, through an integrated maritime policy.

Earlier this summer, the European commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, Maria Damanaki, said that the “blue economy” had an important role to play in Europe’s economic recovery, and could make a “real, tangible and positive difference . . . for Europe’s citizens”.

Aquaculture, renewable energy, marine and coastal tourism and marine biotechnology are among the activities identified as having greater potential here.

The plan emphasises that the “real map of Ireland” is 10 times its landmass.

The report sets out targets and principles for an integrated approach, which will involve a marine co-ordination group, chaired by Mr Coveney and convened by the Department of the Taoiseach with support from the Marine Institute.

It stops short of creating a dedicated marine department, which had been initiated by former taoiseach Charles J Haughey with input from former Bord Iascaigh Mhara chief executive Brendan O’Kelly after the Kowloon Bridge sinking off the coast in the late 1980s.

The sinking exposed a lack of co-ordination among State agencies and departments in dealing with the subsequent pollution.

The plan identifies 15 “actions” for implementation between now and 2014, including creation of an enterprise strategy to generate momentum in specific areas such as offshore renewables, offshore services, information and communications technology and biotechnology.

A “robust planning and licensing framework” is promised, along with development of an “appropriate” maritime spatial planning framework, and it says that good governance, maritime safety, security and surveillance are “key” to achieving targets.

Addressing a “blind spot” in developing marine resources, it says it will include knowledge of the island’s ocean wealth in primary and secondary school curricula and will consider options for inclusion of marine studies in the secondary school curriculum.

Mr Kenny said the Government was “determined that it will be a key component of our economic recovery and sustainable growth generating social, economic and cultural benefits for all”.

More than 190 submissions were received before the plan was finalised.

A summary of these refers to a call to broaden membership of the marine co-ordination group to include the Naval Service, higher education institutions, non-governmental organisations and industry representatives.

Some of the submissions suggested that use of total economic value would be a more appropriate measure of the contribution of the marine economy.

An effective licensing system was viewed as the “single most important contribution the public sector can make” to development.