The 3rd annual Our Ocean Wealth conference was held today in NUI Galway.
The conference is part of the SeaFest programme that started yesterday with the BIM Seafood conference and several other industry events as well as the Marine Industry Awards. Decidedly less formal festivities will take place this weekend with fun events like tours on the Irish naval service vessel LE Niamh and free film screenings of ‘Secret Ocean by Jean-Michel Cousteau’ on-board a mega mobile cinema taking centre stage for the public to enjoy and get a better understanding of our ever-growing Irish maritime world.
— Coast Monkey (@Coast_Monkey) July 1, 2016
The theme for the conference was ‘Into the Blue – Innovating for Our Marine Future’ and throughout the talks it was explored as speakers focused on how we can harness our ocean economy by fortifying the seafood industry, encouraging healthy ecosystems and fostering increased engagement with the sea – all ideas that demand innovation. Speakers including industry leaders like Tara McCarthy (BIM) and Peter Heffernan (Marine Institute), marine researchers and policy makers talked about the challenges faced by our marine industry and the opportunities that we as a country should strive to embrace to bring further development and success.
The event was opened with Michael Creed, minister for agriculture, food and the marine, switching on the SMART Bay project, the Galway bay seabed observatory – a unique new piece of maritime infrastructure for Ireland, one of the first of its kind in Europe. This new underwater cable observatory will be a vital resource in observing and researching our coast. It will be used to do acoustic mapping, 3D sonar and can be employed to help assist rescue and response units.
Throughout the day another common theme arose – that young people are vitally important to the future of the marine industry. This is something that goes without saying – unfortunately to the detriment of this important notion. But happily it seems this complacency is being strongly countered. One innovative approach to foster interest at an early age was illustrated beautifully in the cleverly designed conference bags that were handed out upon arrival. The bags featured images painted by primary school children as part of the Explorers Education Programme which encourages thinking about the coast through artistic engagement. Programmes like this really need to championed from all angles. For more information on this excellent programme, visit here.
The delegates heard some of the outcomes of the BIM conference and the take away was that the seafood industry needs to ‘think better’, returning to the idea of innovation, and work hard to come up with new ways to sell Irish seafood in diverse foreign markets – but also work hard at home to engage the country in taking pride in our fishermen, locally sourced seafood and the whole industry as a whole.