“If our oceans are not healthy, our economy will be sick.” – Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment.
The European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mr. Karmenu Vella, together with leading business people from Thurles, visited the Anner Hotel for a business lunch last week.
Commissioners Vella’s present EU responsibilities include protecting our environment while maintaining Europe’s competitiveness, harnessing the potential of our land and seas to create sustainable jobs that preserve our natural resources, implementing the new Common Fisheries Policy and leading the task of defining the management and governance of our planet’s oceans with our global partners.
Commissioner Vella is also part of the Project Team which promotes Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Energy Union, Better Regulation and Inter institutional Affairs and Budget and Human Resources.
Commissioner Vella later travelled to the Co. Cork hosted national maritime festival ‘Seafest 2015’ where he spoke of the progress being delivered through the Harnessing of our Ocean Wealth strategy, which positioned Ireland as a world leader on Ocean Governance.
The invisible side of our oceans wealth
“The seas are a new frontier”, stated Commissioner Vella. “New technologies such as underwater robotics and DNA sequencing mean that marine resources have become ever more accessible. Today, perhaps more than ever before, the seas offer new opportunities and new types of jobs.
The seas can deliver food. The UN reckons that aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food-producing sectors. The seas can deliver medicine. Scientists wondered why certain marine sponges caused a decline in nearby species – and found a substance that inhibits breast cancer.
The seas can deliver energy. Some 13% of new wind turbine capacity was installed offshore in 2014. And this is creating new jobs: since 2008, employment in offshore wind has grown at an astonishing 30% a year.
The seas are the destination of choice for our holidays. Some 45% of all nights spent by tourists in paid accommodation are in coastal areas. The turnover of the European cruise industry has grown at 3% a year since 2008. Surfing schools and yachting marinas are thriving.
As islanders, the Irish people understand the importance of the sea, adept at making the most of the opportunities that it provides, from aquaculture and marine biotechnology to coastal tourism. Taking the risks that go with a drive for innovation, for instance in ocean energy, is part of the make-up.
But as a people who are so closely linked to the sea, the Irish also understand the importance of preserving this shared resource for the future. Our seas are a huge economic asset. Europe’s maritime economy employs around 5 million people and contributes with around 550 billion Euros to our wealth. The Irish maritime economy is growing nearly twice as fast as the overall economy: by 9% between 2010 and 2012 and by over 8% for 2012 to 2014.
But there is also the ‘invisible side’ of our oceans’ wealth. Our oceans regulate the climate, their wetlands and dunes protect our coasts. If we are to preserve these benefits it is crucial that we preserve our natural assets. If our oceans are not healthy, our economy will be sick”, stated Commissioner Vella.