The Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) launched its Ireland’s Ocean Economy Report at the 3rd Annual Beaufort Marine Socio-Economic Symposium in the National University of Ireland, Galway on Friday 11th November. The Report presents socio-economic data on Ireland’s ocean economy and indicates that in 2007 – the peak of the last economic cycle - Ireland’s ocean economy (marine resource) was valued at €1.4 billion Gross Value Added, represented 1% of GDP, had a turnover of €3.4 billion and provided employment for 17,000 full time equivalent individuals. 2007 is the most recent year for which there is a fully comprehensive database across all marine sectors. More recent data is available for some sectors (e.g. maritime shipping and ports). While 2007 was at the peak of the last economic cycle, the data presented represents an important baseline and resource for future economic planning and socio-economic research.
Launching the Report, Prof Judith Kildow, the Director and Founder of the National Ocean Economics Program, Monterey Institute of International Studies, USA, said that “no country can hope to sustainably develop and conserve its marine resource base without accurate and consistent information on the value generated and employment created by a healthy coast and coastal ocean, and this report is the first attempt to do just that in Ireland. A healthy national economy is inextricably tied to healthy coastal and ocean resources. Tracking economic activities along the coast should promote more knowledgeable planning and more effective policies at local and national levels”. She also emphasised how useful their ocean and coastal economy information has been to planners, Congressional budget and oversight Committees, state governments, NGOs and those in the private sector for program creation and budgets.
The Marine Institute welcomed the Report anticipating that it will become an important biennial publication. Mr Geoffrey O’Sullivan, Senior Policy Advisor at the Marine Institute emphasised “the importance of having consistent, comparable and regular data on the contribution of the marine resource base to the national economy”. “This” he said “is essential to inform strategic planning, to evaluate the impact of investment and research and to direct future investment in developing a sustainable marine economy”.
Dr Stephen Hynes, SEMRU’s Director, acknowledged the financial support from the Marine Research Sub-Programme of the National Development Plan 2007-2013, which is managed by the Marine Institute through the national Sea Change Marine Research Strategy, in supporting the establishment of SEMRU and creating a national marine socio-economic capacity. He also demonstrated how such core funding has been successfully used to leverage additional funding through external contracts and research awards. Dr. Hynes also pointed out that the rising interest in the use of marine waters for activities such as off-shore renewable energy, marine biotechnology, etc. has not been matched by supporting economic information and analysis in Ireland since the marine sector is not well represented by conventional statistics. As such the Ocean Economy Report is a first step in filling that data gap and will help policy makers, key stakeholders and the general public to better comprehend the economic significance of Ireland’s marine waters.
The 3rd Annual Beaufort Marine Socio-Economic Symposium, brought together national and international experts, focussed on the importance of socio-economic data for strategic national and sectoral planning, on the valuation of non-market (hidden) marine ecosystem services and provided a platform to showcase current marine socio-economic PhD work being carried out in SEMRU. Other speakers on the day included Dr. Eric English of Stratus Consulting, Bolder, Colorado who spoke on valuing oil spill impacts in marine environments and compared practices in Europe and the United States, describing the types of natural resource losses encountered in past spills, and describing the economic and ecological models used to calculate compensation. Daniel Norton of SEMRU outlined the importance of estimating the value of achieving ‘good ecological status’ in Irish water catchments as required under the EU Water Framework Directive, while Naomi Foley, of the University of Tromsø, Norway, presented her research that examines the interaction between marine habitats and fisheries. In her talk, Naomi discussed how a marine habitat may positively contribute to stock growth through the provision of breeding, spawning or refuge sites and how it is possible that the price of species harvested over particular habitats may also be affected, not directly by habitat, but indirectly through market and consumer preferences. Some habitats may encourage the concentration of commercial species thus reducing harvest costs.
Further information on all presentations at the symposium can be found athttp://www.nuigalway.ie/semru/events.html while copies of “Ireland’s Ocean Economy 2007” are downloadable fromhttp://www.nuigalway.ie/semru/documents/final_report_small.pdf.