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Tanaiste Pays Tribute to Outgoing Marine Institute Chief Executive

10th October 2019
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At the 2014 Ocean Wealth conference were (from left) Simon Coveney, TD then Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine with Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO, Marine Institute, An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, TD, Miguel Margues of sponsor PricewaterhouseCooper and John Killeen, Chairman, Marine Institute At the 2014 Ocean Wealth conference were (from left) Simon Coveney, TD then Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine with Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO, Marine Institute, An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, TD, Miguel Margues of sponsor PricewaterhouseCooper and John Killeen, Chairman, Marine Institute

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has paid tribute to outgoing Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan for the “phenomenal impact” he has had on Irish and international scientific research writes Lorna Siggins.

Dr Heffernan has been a “trailblazer, demanding political attention”, ensuring Ireland’s reputation as a global leader in the “international marine space”, Mr Coveney said.

Dr Heffernan, who is retiring after almost 27 years in the post, says that Ireland can play a key role in international monitoring of ocean health and impacts of climate change.

Speaking by video at an event in the Marine Institute’s headquarters in Galway on Wednesday, Mr Coveney said that he shared Dr Heffernan’s “passion for the sea and all things marine”.

“As minister for marine, planning and now foreign affairs, I can say that without Peter we wouldn’t have a Marine Institute,” Mr Coveney said.

He recalled how his father, the late Hugh Coveney, had spoken about Peter Heffernan during his own time as marine minister, and how he had also then experienced the scientist’s “extraordinary energy, drive and ambition”.

"Without Peter, we wouldn’t have a Marine Institute”

US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s acting chief scientist Craig McLean and Minister for Marine Michael Creed also paid tribute to Dr Heffernan, while European Commission senior official John Bell highlighted his role in creating the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance.

Initiated in 2013, the alliance commits North America, Canada and the EU to a shared vision of the Atlantic as “healthy, resilient, safe, productive, understood and treasured”.

Under Dr Heffernan’s tenure, the Marine Institute established a headquarters in Galway and developed a marine research fleet – with plans to purchase a new 50m ship to replace the 31m Celtic Voyager.

Dr Heffernan said the changing climate’s impact on the oceans is now the “greatest global challenge”, which Ireland is well placed to monitor – with significant investment in monitoring technology, including the weather buoy network and gliders,

Dr Paul Connolly, who succeeds Dr Peter Heffernan, is a former president of the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES).

Up until recently, he was the director of the Marine Institute’s Fisheries and Ecosystems Advisory Services (FEAS) team, providing scientific advice on the sustainable exploitation of Ireland’s fisheries resource and marine ecosystems.

Marine Institute chairman Dr John Killeen said that Dr Connolly “brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the role, and will be dedicated to positioning the institute as a global leader in ocean knowledge, and empowering Ireland to harness our marine resource”.

Dr Killeen said that Dr Heffernan had “played a fundamental role in developing Ireland’s ocean research capacity”, and “driving collaboration in marine research and innovation in Europe and internationally”.

Dr Heffernan has been selected as a member of the European Commission’s mission board for Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal and Inland Waters.

The board is one of five major research missions of Horizon Europe, the EU Research and Innovation programme (2021 – 2027), and Dr Heffernan is one of two Irish appointees.

Published in Marine Science
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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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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