Harnessing our marine wealth
Two months ago, on Thursday March 13th we were notified that schools and universities were to close. Little were we to know what was ahead of us. There was an element of panic buying – toilet paper became the most desired item for a couple of weeks, until we realised the excellent planning on supply – probably helped by Brexit, was going to work in this crisis.
We had hoped to be heading to Cork this week to attend an annual meeting of people interested in our seas and oceans. Because of the crisis, a decision was taken to cancel SeaFest, Ireland’s National Marine Festival, which was due to take place in May 15-17. This is a major event with so many activities for all the family and particularly amazing seafood. This festival moves location every few years, and this year is was set to take place in Cork in line with European Maritime day. The conference, called Our Ocean Wealth is always an inspiring event – politicians take to the stage, EU representatives engage in the discussions. They talk about how we can connect with our marine environment to achieve the planned revenue from all the activities in the national vision “Harnessing our ocean wealth” an integrated marine plan for Ireland. It’s so important to have a plan like this, that sees the value of this amazing resource.
This plan is a credit to those that have worked so hard in the past 10 years to develop it and move the vision forward. It has not been without its challenges I’m sure. Exploring the marine environment around Ireland is new for people. The fear of exploitation, disruption, poor management and other fears probably – have slowed the progress. The wild Atlantic provides such an amazing opportunity for Ireland to test ocean energy devices – we can be innovators and leaders in this space. The aquaculture developers can look at a more sustainable way of farming fish, that takes into account the risks of disease and nutrient pollution. Engineers can develop and test their underwater technologies that can help in monitoring the marine ecosystem – to help inform research on climate change – and of course citizens can understand the valuable resource for leisure activities and sport. The marine environment is an incredible enabler, that can see the integrated efforts of policy makers, industry and researchers delivering real value from the fundamental bioresource recovery – for new medicines, to new technologies, new observations and resultant services that can be delivered. The marine environment provides such a vast opportunity that still remains untapped in Ireland, largely I think, because of the need to communicate the value to everyone. It is a resource for everyone. I feel so privileged to be able to research in it, and for it.