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The Ocean Is Our Life Support System: Ireland's Key Message On World Stage

31st October 2015

#BlueFutures - The Marine Institute's chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan is representing Ireland at a number of international events in Europe, USA and Canada where he has promoted the importance of the oceans in the planetary life support system.

“Ninety-seven per cent of the water on our planet resides in the ocean and everything we eat depends on it,” he told an EU conference at EXPO Milano titled ‘Strengthening global food and nutrition security through research and innovation’.

The EU’s objective at this conference was to provide an opportunity for a global debate on how science and innovation can help the EU play its role in ensuring safe, nutritious, sufficient and sustainable food across the world.

Dr Heffernan emphasised the critical role the ocean plays in the production of food. "The ocean affects every human life as it drives the water cycle supplying us with freshwater (via rain), moderates the weather and continuously influences the climate which in turn affects the production of our food on land,” he said.

“With our reliance on the ocean, it is important to include research efforts in better understanding the oceans vulnerabilities particularly those relating to adapting to climate and environmental changes.”

This message was further highlighted by Dr Heffernan when he also addressed the Ocean Innovation Canada 2015 conference in St John's, Newfoundland this week (26-29 October), where the event focused on the importance of ocean mapping for oil and gas, aquaculture, fisheries and marine industry.

With ongoing collaborations between the Marine Institute and the Memorial University Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER) in St John's, Ireland carried out the first transatlantic seabed mapping survey under the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance on the RV Celtic Explorer earlier this year.

“This was directly facilitated by the 2015 charter by CFER and we are very excited about opportunities to expand the scale and impact of the transect mapping with AORA partners in 2016,” said Dr Heffernan.

Meanwhile, at Transatlantic Science Week next week (4-6 November) in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr Heffernan will further emphasise the importance of undertaking research that will provide the basis for our understanding of the ocean and how it affects our daily lives.

This year’s theme – Blue Futures – will focus on the changes our oceans and their biological resources are undergoing as well as the effects and consequences of these processes.

A key focus will be on stewardship of the sea, oceans and human health and productive seas and coasts, which supports the directive of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation, the research alliance between the EU, Canada and the USA.

Published in Marine Science
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.


At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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