Importance of Ireland's marine resource

Our ocean is a national asset – supporting a diverse marine economy with vast potential to tap into a global marine market for seafood, tourism, oil and gas, renewable ocean energy and new applications for health, medicine and technology.

Our marine resources also give us many non-commercial benefits, for example amenity, biodiversity and our mild climate. Ireland has a strong and long maritime culture and tradition. The sea has the power to capture a sense of imagination, adventure and achievement.

When we take our seabed area into account, Ireland is one of the largest EU States, with a seabed territory of  approximately 880,000km2, more than 10 times our landmass.

Our coastline of 7500km is longer than that of many European countries.

Ireland’s coastline, inshore and offshore waters:

  • Contain some of the largest and most valuable fisheries resource in Europe
  • Are the western gateway for shipping to Europe’s busiest seaports
  • Are an ideal location for finfish, shellfish and seaweed aquaculture
  • Are among the richest and most accessible renewable energy (wind, wave and tidal) resources in the world
  • Contain significant oil and gas resource potential as evidenced by recent discoveries and ongoing research
  • Provides opportunities to develop new products and services
  • Offer spectacular tourism and leisure opportunities and a rich maritime culture and heritage
  • Support a rich and diverse range of ecosystems, habitats and species and unique land and seascapes
  • Contribute to our citizen’s wellbeing, health and quality of life

Adapted from Ireland’s ocean wealth – An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland

Ireland's ocean economy

The direct economic value of Ireland's ocean economy was €1.2 billion or about 0.8% of GDP in 2010 according to the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) at National University of Ireland, Galway. The sector had a turnover of €3.5 billion and provided employment for about 16,300 people (full time equivalent).

The SEMRU report on Ireland's Ocean Economy (2013) shows that emerging marine industries are growing much faster than established marine industries. High-tech marine products and services, marine biotechnology, bio-products and marine renewable energy all recorded a large increase in turnover and employment during the period 2007-2010, but gross value add was unchanged or decreased.

Established marine industries such as shipping, maritime transport, marine tourism and marine manufacturing, construction and engineering recorded a significant fall in activity in that period. These trends are in line with other sectors in the economy and reflect the impact of the global economic downturn during the study period. Sea fisheries experienced a fall in overall turnover but gross value added and employment increased. Aquaculture increased turnover and gross value added, but employment fell. 

A number of sectors showed a positive outlook despite the economic downturn during that period, for example seafood, tourism, and shipping sectors are showing positive signs of recovery and growth.