More than 60,000 visitors flocked to SeaFest, Ireland’s national maritime festival, last weekend to enjoy an action-packed programme centred on Galway Harbour.
Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute, was delighted at the public response and at the enthusiasm for Ireland’s marine heritage which underpinned the festivities. He said; “SeaFest is all about is increasing participation and engagement with the sea, showcasing Ireland’s abundant maritime resources and celebrating our proud maritime heritage. An initiative of the inter-departmental Marine Coordination Group, SeaFest supports the goals of Harnessing Our Wealth – An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland in relation to engaging with the Sea. That plan is ambitious and complex in its reach, but as the weekend proved, everyone can identify with the core messages of appreciating, enjoying and protecting this wonderful natural resource.
“As the crowds in Galway showed, the sea is a fantastic source of fun and entertainment and we were thrilled to see so many people – locals and visitors alike – join in the spirited marine-themed fun.
“SeaFest was a hugely ambitious venture and Galway rose to the challenge of providing a fabulous weekend which both informed and entertained. I’d like to thank all the bodies involved in supporting this venture, including Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Bord Bia, Commissioners of Irish Lights, the Port of Galway, National University of Ireland in Galway, the Department of Defence, the Irish Coastguard, the RNLI, Galway City Council, and my colleagues at the Marine Institute,… and a special thank you to all those volunteers who brought their enthusiasm, expertise and passion for the sea to the project.”
Dr John Killeen, Chair of The Marine Institute, said; “We’re extremely proud to be playing our part in the wider ‘Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth’ initiative, providing opportunities for people of every age and interest to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of the ocean, building on how we can each act to protect our abundant maritime resources.
“Amongst the benefits which flow from the sea are those which impact positively on our tourism industry and I am happy to say at SeaFest delivered handsomely in this respect. Our city’s vibrant hospitality sector greatly benefited from the influx of people attracted by the high profile event and the harbour provided the perfect focal point for family fun on and off the water. I hope that many of those who came to visit us because of the excitement of SeaFest will return at a later stage to explore at their leisure.”
Amongst the scene-stealing ’on the water’ excitement was the spectacle of the Galway Hookers’ challenge for the Galway Plate; the arrival of the gracious tall ship, The Phoenix, and Frank Bölter sailing his quirky large scale origami paper boat into the harbour in partnership with TULCA for Galway 2020!
On dry land, an array of seafaring attractions kept young and old amused and intrigued … from Bord Iascaigh Mhara and Bord Bia’s seafood extravaganza packed with great natural produce and cookery demonstrations by celebrity chefs to tours of ocean-going vessels and the Marine Institute’s ‘Our Wild Atlantic – What Lies Beneath’ marquee with its interactive exhibits on marine life and creatures of the deep.
Significantly, SeaFest also brought to the city a major focus on research and the marine economy with a number of marine-related business and research events taking place in the lead-up to the public festivities. The third annual ‘Our Ocean Wealth Conference’ allowed speakers and delegates of national and international status to delve more deeply into the theme of Innovating for our Marine Future, exploring and strengthening Ireland’s maritime heritage, economy and identity.