“For the past two years, Ireland’s has topped Europe’s growth charts,” said EU Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, on a recent visit to Cork.
“You have made many sacrifices, and today you have the highest growth rates in the EU, dynamic exports, and unemployment rates falling below the EU average.” Ireland’s recovery is underway, and grasping the potential of its maritime economy, he added. “The ocean is the heart of our planet. We know it makes up 70% of the earth’s surface, and yet we know only 5% of its depth. So research is essential.”
Europe’s maritime economy, from fisheries to shipping and coastal tourism, employs around five million jobs and contributes with around €550 billion to our wealth.
If Europe’s maritime economy was a national economy, it would be the seventh biggest economy in the European Union.
“We are witnessing a remarkable rise of new, innovative industries,” said Commissioner Vella. “Ireland has had the courage and the vision to support ventures that are seen as too risky elsewhere, in particular, ocean energy.” In 2015, there are 23 million people out of work in the European Union - yet hundreds of maritime firms are looking for staff with the right qualifications and experience.
He cited the recent Irish study on skills requirements for the marine economy showing that maritime careers are failing to attract young people – either because the jobs seem unappealing or because career opportunities aren’t visible.
“We are therefore preparing for 2016 a training and education programme for ‘blue careers’ – for maritime jobs. The economic opportunities, be they established fields such as tourism, growing sectors like aquaculture, or new pastures like bio-technology, must be constantly measured by our environmental responsibilities. I fundamentally believe that if our oceans are not healthy, our economy will be sick,” Commissioner Vella concluded.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved