The Marine Institute hosted a meeting for marine socio-economic experts at its Galway Headquarters on the 10th March. The Workshop is part of a process that will see the development a national marine socio-economic research capability to not only assemble national statistics on the value of Ireland’s marine and maritime resources and their socio-economic and regional impacts, but to use this data as a dynamic tool for economic planning and investment as well as informed policy planning and implementation.
The Sea Change Strategy (A Marine Research, Knowledge and Innovation Strategy for Ireland: 2007-2013) is the marine component of the ambitious National Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation (SSTI: 2006-2013) which seeks to transform Ireland into a knowledge-based economy.
The Sea Change Strategy was prepared throughout 2005 – 2006, through a series of Stakeholder Consultations, commissioned reports (e.g. Ireland Ocean Economy (2005), Maritime Industries Global Market Analysis (2005)) and Foresight Exercises. During this process, a number of critical but missing national marine research competencies were identified. Among them was a national capability in marine socio-economics that would enable Ireland to compile national statistics on the value of its diverse marine resources and to use this information for knowledge-based economic planning and policy development and implementation.
Accordingly, as part of the funding supports for the implementation of the Sea Change Strategy, the Government announced the Beaufort Marine Research Award Scheme, funded via the NDP Marine Research Sub-Programme of the NDP 2007-2013, to fill a number of critical research gaps in the marine sciences. One of the successful recipients of Beaufort funding was the Marine Socio-Economic Research Group led by the Irish Centre for Rural Transformation and Sustainability (NUIG) and Teagasc (the Agriculture Research Institute). The €2 million Beaufort award will support the recruitment of two senior researchers, four PhD scholars and a number of summer students.
The Galway Workshop, one of a number of such workshops associated with the launch of this initiative, opened with presentations from Yvonne Shields (Marine Institute) and Prof Michael Cuddy (NUIG) on the background to the Sea Change Strategy and the Beaufort Marine Socio-Economic Award respectively.
The invited keynote guest speaker, Dr Regis Kalaydjian, senior economist with the French Marine Institute (Ifremer) outlined how the French compile and publish marine and maritime economic statistics on a bi-annual (every 2 years) basis. In providing a breakdown of French statistics (the French maritime economy is worth over €20 billion and provides employment for over 400,000 persons) he noted that over 43% of the French maritime economy is based on coastal tourism. Shipping and Ship-building (27%), Seafood (11%), Offshore Services (9%) and Public Services and Works (8%) make up the balance. Dr Kalaydjian also described the current EU initiative to collect comparable economic maritime data across the European Union and the difficulties that this entailed. Dr Kalaydjian is leading this EU project which is one of the priority actions promised by the EU in the Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union Action Plan (2007).
Dr Karyn Morrissy (Teagasc) then outlined how the Irish Beaufort Marine Socio-Economic Project proposed to go about collecting information on the value of Irish marine resources. She strongly emphasised that this was not just a data collection exercise but that the data had to be collected in such a way that it was amenable to In-put Out-put models so that it could be used as a dynamic tool for economic planning and investment as well as policy planning and implementation.
Other Agencies, who are actively involved in sectoral marine economic data collection exercises then outlined their programmes. These included the shipping and maritime transport sector (IMDO), the fisheries and aquaculture sectors (BIM), the oil and gas sector (SRL Consulting/Petroleum Infrastructures Programme) and the renewable ocean energy sector (SEI).
Anne Kinsella (Teagasc) gave a very informative and instructive presentation on the experiences of the National Farm Survey operated by Teagasc and emphasised the critical importance of a two way dialogue and of giving something back to those who contribute.
In concluding the Workshop, the Chair (Geoffrey O’Sullivan, Marine Institute) thanked all those who had contributed and acknowledged their willingness to work together to share experiences and data. He reflected that the absence of good marine economic data and the importance of the sector to national and regional development had been a major impediment to the developing Ireland’s Maritime Economy. This initiative, he said, would be an important turning point.