Foras na Mara

Ireland Plays a Leadership Role in European Marine Science

Marine Institute CEO Chairs Key European Workshop in Bremen

Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of Ireland’s Marine Institute, today chaired a key European workshop on Marine Research and Innovation at an international conference in Bremen on the Commission’s Green Paper on a future Maritime Policy for Europe. Hosted by the German Presidency of the European Union Council of Ministers and by the Land of Bremen, this event is one of the high-points of the year- long Green Paper consultation process. The workshop on research and innovation is part of three days of debate, bringing together political and business leaders with scientific experts, and stakeholders' representatives from across the EU.

The main focus of their discussions was on the added value of an integrated European maritime policy, and how to identify new potential for sustainable development of Europe's oceans and seas and coastal regions. Participants reviewed the preliminary results of the ongoing process of consultation, and their conclusions will inform the activities of the Commission and the Portuguese Council Presidency during the second half of 2007.

“Ireland has played an increasingly important leadership role in European marine research and innovation over the past ten years,” said Dr. Heffernan. “The window of opportunity afforded by the political debate on the development of an EU Maritime Policy offered the best opportunity in my lifetime for the global and local significance of the oceans and the outputs  of marine research and innovation  to be appreciated by society."

Since its creation by statute in 1991, the Marine Institute has rallied the Irish marine science community to action, both on the national and European stage. Ireland can now boast two state-of-the-art research vessels, world-class laboratory facilities and a growing community of highly qualified and energetic researchers dedicated to develop the potential of the seas in a sustainable way.

The “Galway Declaration” signed by the world’s leading marine scientists during Ireland’s EU Presidency in 2004 is recognised as a cornerstone for European marine science strategy and is quoted in the EU Green Paper currently under discussion.

“Ireland is consistently cited in global benchmarking studies as a model for best practice in innovation in the knowledge economy,” said EU Marine Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Joe Borg earlier this year in Dublin. “Ireland is also an invaluable contributor to the debates on European science policy. Being an island nation you fully understand the role of the sea as a link to the outside world both in terms of communication and trade. You have a strong marine food sector including fisheries, aquaculture, seaweed production and seafood processing. You have also chosen to orient your energies towards research and development in the maritime sector, which makes us particularly eager to hear your thinking on how to maintain Europe's position at the cutting edge of innovation.”

The two days of debate have been divided into four thematic sections: Employment and Competitiveness; Research and Innovation; Shared responsibility for the maritime environment; and Life on the coasts. Vice-President of the European Commission Jacques Barrot and Commissioner Borg addressed the delegates, as did German Federal Minister for Transport Wolfgang Tiefensee along with Ministers from other Member States.

ENDS

Notes to Editor

The European Green Paper

Published by the Commission in June 2006, the Green Paper on a future Maritime Policy is an integral part of the EU's policy of promoting sustainable development in Europe in the 21st century. The Green Paper explores the potential benefits of a holistic approach to policy development and planning that would transcend the current sectoral approach to maritime-based activities and decision-making so as to maximise synergies and prevent inter-users conflicts. In this way, it would be possible to promote growth and employment in the maritime sector, while ensuring that the marine environment is protected for the benefit of all, and also for future generations.

The consultation exercise is one of the largest ever launched by the Commission, and will run until the end of June this year. Participation to date had already been extremely broad-based, with 141 written contributions received so far from a wide range of coastal regions, industry associations, scientific institutions and NGOs, as well as from individual citizens. There have been 231 events touching on issues raised in the Green Paper across Europe, organised and funded by interested parties.

A particularly high number of contributions was received from coastal regions directly or through representative bodies, such as the Committee of Regions at the European level or the German Bundesrat at national level, confirming that the debate stimulated by the Green Paper is of genuine concern to the citizens of Europe, of whom more than 40% live close to the coast. Following the conclusion of the consultation process, the Commission will come forward with a range of proposals for action in October.

The Marine Institute

The Marine Institute was created under the Marine Institute Act in 1991 to “undertake, to co-ordinate, to promote and to assist” in the development of marine research and development in Ireland. Since its early days in Harcourt Street Dublin, it has grown into an internationally respected science body with over 200 staff, two purpose-built vessels – RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager, a research facility near Newport, Co. Mayo and now a brand new headquarters and laboratory on the shores of Galway Bay.