Ireland could be earning over a Billion Euros a year from its 220 million acres of seabed, an international gathering of decision makers, scientists and industry representatives was told today (Tuesday 5th November) at the 10th Anniversary Conference of the Marine Institute in Dublin Castle.
Opening the Conference, Minister of State John Browne, T.D., paid tribute to the management and staff of the Marine Institute in achieving its mandate of promoting economic development and protecting the marine environment.
“The balance between these two aims is a delicate one,” said the Minister. “And over the last ten years the Marine Institute has contributed hugely to achieving that balance through its leadership in developing Ireland’s programme of strategic and innovative marine research.”
Ireland has territorial rights over 220 million acres of seabed, a natural resource offering a wide range economic opportunities in marine food production, energy generation, recreation and transport. But it is also a fragile resource that must be managed in a sustainable way.
“The Institute’s slogan that “90% of Ireland is undeveloped, undiscovered and . . . underwater!” comes home with the fact that we know more about the surface of the moon than we know about the sea,” said Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute. “To push back the boundaries of knowledge we have embarked on the most ambitious underwater survey ever undertaken – a multimillion Euro collaboration between the Marine Institute and the Geological Survey of Ireland to provide baseline maps of Ireland’s marine territory.”
Given that this area is ten times the size of Ireland’s land mass, the project is one of the world’s largest and most ambitious surveys. It has already begun using the Institute’s research vessel Celtic Voyager and will continue from 2003 to 2005 using the new deep sea National Research Vessel Celtic Explorer due for delivery to the Institute later this year.
Also speaking at the Conference were Dr. William Brennan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Affairs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from the USA, Dr Christian Patermann of the Directorate of Science, Research and Development in the European Commission and Mr Jean-Francois Minster, Chief Executive of the French Marine Institute IFREMER and Chairman of the European Science Foundation Marine Board.
The Conference features seminars on sustainable fisheries, marine Environment and Biodiversity, Shipping Challenges for Ireland, Sustainable Aquaculture and Ocean Energy. It will continue until Thursday.