The 10th Annual Marine Economics and Policy Research Symposium was held on Thursday and Friday the 28th and 29th of November at the Marine Institute in Oranmore. Organised each year by the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) of the Whitaker Institute, NUI Galway, with the support of the Marine Institute, the one and a half day event provides an update on a wide range of policy topics related to the marine sector in Ireland and further afield.
To mark the 10th year of the event, the symposium showcased the international linkages that have been established between SEMRU and partner institutes across a number of EU projects such as ATLAS, MOSES, MERCES, SOPHIE and ALICE. Speakers included academics and marine policy makers. It was a packed agenda with 19 speakers across the two days. International speakers included Prof Nick Hanley, University of Glasgow, Dr Adriana Ressurreição, Centre of Marine Sciences, Faro, Portugal and Dr Rolf Groeneveld of Wageningen University, the Netherlands.
In introducing the day’s proceedings, Dr Stephen Hynes of SEMRU spoke of the strong research links between NUI Galway and the Marine Institute, while in his opening remarks the President of NUI Galway Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh highlighted how the unique marine environment, the city and county’s cultural connections to the sea and the location of the university on the wild Atlantic’s edge sets the college apart internationally. Dr Paul Connelly, the newly appointed CEO of the Marine Institute pointed out how “10 years ago, at the closing statement of the 1st workshop, the Chair reflected that the absence of good marine economic data and the importance of the sector to national and regional development had been a major impediment to the developing Ireland’s Maritime Economy. This initiative, he said, would be an important turning point”. Dr Connolly continued “Fast forward to where we are today and our marine resource – led by the Marine Coordination Group, and the Department of the Taoiseach, Ireland’s marine sector is recognized as an important national asset – supporting a diverse marine economy with vast and innovative global markets”.
Topics covered during the two days included public perceptions of the oceans, marine spatial planning (MSP), marine ecosystem service benefit valuation and marine and coastal tourism. Conor McCabe from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government spoke of Ireland’s new Marine Planning Framework. He explained that in order to support the effective management of marine activities and more sustainable use of Ireland’s extensive marine resources, the Government is putting in place a comprehensive new approach to marine planning across three main areas – forward planning, development management and marine planning enforcement. In the same session however Wesley Flannery of Queen’s University Belfast questioned the effectiveness of marine spatial planning and warned how in the English case tokenistic participation, wholescale adoption of path-dependent solutions and obstructionist deployment of inactive technological solutions meant that MSP in England became about maintaining the status quo.
The final session of the event presented a number of papers that examined how marine policy and maritime industries were being implemented more locally. In his presentation on the effects of flood risk on house prices Tom Gillespie of SEMRU demonstrated how house prices responded dramatically to the release of flood risk maps in 2011, with the emergence of a 5% price discount for properties deemed at 1% risk, but how the discount for flood risk disappears after the construction of flood defences. Máire Ní Einniú from Údarás na Gaeltachta presented research that examined attitudes to aquaculture and other marine activities in Galway Bay, finding a considerable variation in attitudes, across the Connemara area, to marine industry developments. The session caused considerable debate amongst those audience participants, specifically between those who were pro- and anti-aquaculture development in the bay.
Presentations from the day are available below.
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