Limerick West): This Bill seeks to address the necessity, in a maritime nation like ours, for coherent co-ordination of Government policy for the development of marine resources. The promotion of the Marine Institute Bill marks another decisive step in putting in place the structures envisaged in the policy document entitled Roinn na Mara, published in 1985.
Many of the problems currently affecting the development of our maritime economy and marine resources can be attributed to the absence of a clearly defined policy, accompanied by a fragmentation of administrative structures. We want to get the structures right so that the latent marine potential of the State can be fully realised in everyone's interest.
The urgent necessity for the right policies was acknowledged by the last Administration. That Administration attempted to solve a number of the problems in the areas through the establishment of Roinn na Mara.
In the 30 months since its inception, Roinn na Mara improved the administration of the marine sector and has sought to tackle some of the problems indicated in the seminal document Roinn na Mara to which I have referred. These included, for example: wasteful utilisation of Government financial and human resources; demarcation overlaps in policy between Government Departments and agencies operating both within and outside the marine field; absence of forward development planning relating to existing established marine resources and those with development potential; lack of cohesion in approach to international maritime developments which impinge on national interests; inadequate investment in research and development.
That is by way of background. I would now like to focus on the particular issue at hand, which is the case for the Marine Institute indicated in the Bill now before this House. The oceans are the last frontier, the least known part of our planet. They cover 70 per cent of its surface area, have been used by man from time immemorial to reach other continents and to supply him with food and other resources. Yet it is only recently that their multifarious role has been fully comprehended.
We cannot, however, exploit the tremendous resource potential of the oceans without knowledge of what is out there, without the capacity to measure these resources, having identified them, and without the capacity to develop the necessary related tools and instruments. We must, at the same time, ensure the protection of the environment in all its aspects. It is in providing this information that marine research plays a vital role.
The sea and seabed resources, and the technologies related to their exploitation, represent a new and important trend in economic and industrial development on a global scale. In future decades, the resources of the sea will account for an increasing share of the world economy. Control of such resources and the ability to explore and exploit them, will play a significant part in the economic growth and development of many nations. It also means that competition for the use of new resources will be intense.
In the case of Ireland, the marine area constitutes a major but underdeveloped natural resource and offers significant opportunities in terms of wealth and employment creation for a broad range of industries.
As an island nation every aspect of our daily lives is in some way influenced by the sea that surrounds us, whether it be the effect of the sea on our climate or the distance from mainland export markets. Yet, as a nation we do not perceive ourselves as a maritime people and worse, the sea continues to be regarded as a barrier to development rather than a natural resource to be utilised and developed for the benefit of the nation.
Ireland's marine area is very large in comparison to that of other European nations. In fact, the Irish Continental Shelf is unusually wide by international standards. It covers an area many times the size of the national land territory. It is likely that this vast area of the Continental Shelf contains tremendous resources.
In order to capitalise on our marine and fisheries resources, it is essential that we measure these resources, understand how they behave and devise the most effective exploitation methods. Only then can we systematically start to exploit these resources commercially. The successful commercial development of all natural resources, whether they be marine or terrestrial, depends on a well co-ordinated, directed and supportive research and development effort. Thus, the growing worldwide investment in marine science and technology arises from an awareness that the oceans can be one of mankind's major future sources of new food, energy, mineral and chemical supplies.
Marine science and technology has a vital role to play in the understanding, identification, location and mapping of marine resources, with developing and supporting marine-related industries, and providing the fundamental information on which to base development strategies. The lack of some of the most elementary knowledge of our marine environment and resource base is crucial. The Marine Institute will fill this gap providing the vehicle to promote the development of marine resources across a wide number of sectors, fisheries, aquaculture, non-living resources, marine engineering and electronics, etc.
Ireland's investment in marine research and technology is small in European terms. For example, our level of operation of research vessels is only a small fraction of that maintained by comparable small countries, such as the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway. Conversely, many foreign vessels conduct research in Irish waters. This means that other European countries know more about certain aspects of Irish waters than we do ourselves.
Our lack of knowledge of our marine environment means we are losing potential benefits and opportunities under a range of headings, which include: fishing, aquaculture, tourism and amenity, seabed resources together with spin-off industries such as marine equipment, offshore engineering, coastal engineering.
Areas which currently need to be addressed include: the need for a source of economic analysis to assist Irish organisations in the marine area to seek out and optimise economic opportunities, and to assist them when they experience difficulties; the lack of a coherent marine research and development policy puts us at a disadvantage in the EC fora where we have the opportunity to ensure the inclusion of marine research and development in EC research support programmes such as the Fisheries and Aquaculture Research programme and the Marine Science and Technology programme. The scale and the variety of these needs and the related benefits add up to a convincing case for meeting the requirement for an early, rapid and wide-scale development of structures, mechanisms and programmes for marine and fisheries research and technology leading, in turn, to what could be a spectacular development of related national resources.
A wide range of organisations is involved in marine research in Ireland. Many of these organisations are small and poorly equipped. They are physically and institutionally separated from each other. A fundamental problem is that the work of the various organisations is uncoordinated. There are both gaps and overlaps between Government Departments and agencies operating both in and outside the field. In some areas, important programmes are not being undertaken at all. Important research programmes in hydrography and oceanography are not being undertaken.
The question of the delimitation of the Irish Continental Shelf is unresolved. Only through a co-ordinated administrative structure based on clearly defined policy, can we create the momentum necessary to attract technological and human resources to translate potential into reality. Furthermore, many activities are sub-functions of Departments or sections of Departments whose main responsibilities are remote from marine or aquatic affairs. Many of the research personnel involved are either civil servants who are inspectoral and have other duties, or university personnel again with other duties or on short-term contracts. There is an inadequate professional corps of expertise devoted solely to research and mandated to liaise actively with the industry.
It is clear, therefore, that the present institutional structures for the conduct of marine research in Ireland are inadequate or inappropriate. Lack of co-ordination is inhibiting the development of resources. Furthermore, there is a strong need to clarify the relationships between the roles and responsibilities of the bodies already involved.
Apart from fragmentation, a key consideration is that to be successful, scientific and technological activities have to become intensely discipline-related. The success or failure of programmes will be dependent to a marked degree on the level of discipline-related communication and co-operation achieved.
There is general agreement that the information dealing with the economic and social aspects of marine industries needs to be up-graded. In particular, there is a considerable lack of information available on the stock levels of many species of fish in Irish waters, particularly on the "non-traditional" species which offer potential for development in the future — ling, megrim, turbot, brill, dogfish, monkfish and spart. Such information is vital if we are to achieve the objectives set out for the fishing industry in current Government policy.
The establishment of a Marine Institute is as necessary now as it was in 1985 when the idea was first mooted. Indeed, the urgency of establishing the Institute is, if anything, even greater now than it was then. I believe that investigation of single aspects of marine science in isolation from one another is inefficient and ineffective. Such investigation is also potentially dangerous in the sense that wrong decisions can result from incomplete information.
If we look at the experience of other countries we see the development of a marked tendency in many of these to integrate previously separate marine and marine-related research operations. There are obvious administrative benefits to be derived from having all marine research and marine-related research co-ordinated by a single Marine Institute. A centrally controlled approach is justifiable, and indeed desirable, on the grounds of administrative cost-effectiveness. A properly co-ordinated and effective organisational structure will provide authoritative technical input to resource development and, underpinning this, to the formulation of policy and programmes for marine and marine-related research.
The establishment of a Marine Institute is, moreover, justifiable on grounds other than those related to administrative cost-effectiveness. It is justifiable on the basis that the sea represents a national resource with development potential as yet only partially realised.
The establishment of the Marine Institute will result in real synergy and economy. It will seek to end the current disorganised, splintered approach to marine research, and eliminate the fragmentation of the marine research and marine-related research activities currently located in different Government Departments, State agencies, and other bodies. It will ease the situation in which current research and technology programmes tend to become, of necessity, ad hoc and short-term. It will work towards the provision of an adequate data base for all organisations and firms working in the marine area.
In sum, there will be a major improvement in efficiency and technical input resulting from the conduct of all marine and marine-related research under a single direction mechanism which will, at the same time, take account of sectoral concerns and considerations.
Externally, of course, the establishment of the Marine Institute will enable this country to compete more effectively with other countries by having an effective control of operations. In particular, it will develop to the optimum the functions of co-ordinating Irish participation in European-related activities. This will not, of course, happen overnight. The Bill is the vehicle to enable a framework to be put in place within which we can seek to achieve the objectives which I have outlined.
I would now like to address some of the particular issues in which I feel the institute, when established, will involve itself. Opportunities for development of our main resources exist in: fisheries; aquaculture; non-living seabed resources; amenity/recreation; ocean engineering; marine electronics and instrumentation. The successful and economic development of these activities requires the ability to identify and quantify potential resources and to develop the technology necessary to exploit them. In carrying out these developments it is vital to ensure that the marine environment is not damaged or polluted.
The institute will further research in the areas of: living resources, including fish stocks, aquaculture and salmonid resources; non-living resources, including the delimitation of the Continental Shelf; oceanography and marine environmental studies; ocean engineering and electronics technology and would provide specialist services for marine research including computer facilities, research vessels and equipment.
In the Programme for National Recovery a projection was made of 2,000 new full-time and 2,000 new part-time jobs in the seafish industry in the period to 1991. The establishment of a Marine Institute was seen in the programme as an essential element in the development of the seafish industry and in the achievement of the projected targets.
Our valuable fishing and fish farming resources must be exploited to best satisfy the requirements of the international marketplace. International markets for seafood are generally buoyant and are likely to remain so. Ireland, with the right products and marketing strategies, can gain a better foothold in these markets, building on the health image of seafood and the fact that Irish fish is produced in clear unpolluted waters. To ensure development in this area, research is badly needed and this research will be provided by the Marine Institute.
We must strengthen the industry supply base through the efficient exploitation of new fishing grounds and stocks and species which are currently under-exploited. An increase in the supply of fish as raw material for processing and greater continuity of supply are essential for further development. Research is the key here and this research will be provided by the Marine Institute.
We must improve the supply of our aquaculture products, by promoting the production of priority species, by encouraging research and development into new species and by achieving self-sufficiency in smolt and seed supplies. Research into all these areas is vital. This research will be provided by the Marine Institute. The identification, quantification and exploitation of non-living marine resources depends on a detailed knowledge of the geological structure and evolution of the seabed.
Under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, Ireland can extend its jurisdiction over an extensive Continental Shelf area. The limits of the Irish Continental Shelf will require to be delineated. The definition of the Irish Shelf area will require a major investment, both in terms of shiptime and scientific effort. Already there are a number of conflicting claimants for vast tracts of the shelf which experts consider should rightly belong to Ireland. The areas under contention could amount to over 40 per cent of our Continental Shelf. In order to ensure that the Irish claim to this area is vindicated, we will need access to the best scientific and technical data which, in turn, will involve conducting a major survey programme of these remote areas. Following the delineation of the limits and the surveying of the areas within those limits, further exploratory work will be required so as to underpin adequately the economic exploitation of these areas.
Given our maritime status, we must look to the sea as a resource and develop opportunities in the other areas referred to: coastal engineering, electronics, instrumentation, amenity and environmental protection. These activities are not only vital to our national development but, given that 71 per cent of the earth's surface is covered by the sea, are very marketable commodities worldwide.
The Government recognised these problems and realised that the solution lay in the establishment of a Marine Institute. As a first step towards the establishment of such an institute, the Government considered the report of a Marine Science and Technology Task Force on the options for a Marine Institute. The task force, which consisted of representatives of Government Departments, other State bodies, universities, and private industry, considered the scope, size, structures, location and costing of a Marine Institute appropriate to national requirements. As a basis for comparison, the task force considered what other maritime nations have achieved and how they have structured their research and technological activities.
Options which were examined ranged from the simple co-ordination of various elements by means of a central liaising mechanism, through a Marine Institute within a university, to a new single agency. The arguments emerged strongly in favour of the last of these. Various models of a single agency were considered, such as an executive office, a limited company, or a State-sponsored agency. The task force recommended the last of these.
The Marine Institute will have the general function to undertake, co-ordinate, promote and assist in marine research and development. The institute will provide services related to marine research and development that will promote economic development and create employment.
The institute will, in particular provide advice on policy relating to marine research and development; carry out Government policy on marine research and development; undertake, develop, promote and market marine research and and development; undertake, develop, promote and market marine research and development services; promote and assist the improvement, development and application of technical and other processes for the exploitation and development of the marine resource; collect, maintain and disseminate information relating to marine matters; co-ordinate proposals for marine research and development requiring funding from the Exchequer or from any State-owned or controlled body; evaluate proposals for marine research and development requiring funding from the Exchequer or from any State-owned or controlled body; advise on proposals for marine research and development requiring funding from the Exchequer or from any State-owned or controlled body.
The institute may in addition represent the State in European Community programmes of marine research and development; commission from other persons work to be carried out under the direction of the institute; enter into joint ventures so as to undertake or further the application of marine research and development; promote and organise seminars, conferences, lectures or demonstrations relating to marine research and development and engage in international activities in relation to marine research and development.
It is important to stress that the intention is not to set up a new institute in the sense of a physical bricks and mortar structure. Rather what is in mind is a new institutional arrangement.
Thus, the Marine Institute — for the foreseeable future at any rate — will not be a single campus organisation. This is not essential in the short- to mediumterm and in the present economic climate the construction of such a campus would be a waste of scarce financial resources.
The component agencies making up the new institute will, for the most part, continue at their present locations but the overall direction and funding of their research programmes will be under the control of the Marine Institute. Client Departments and other "customers" will retain an input to the institute's activities through representation at board level or on advisory committees of the institute.
The institute will be governed by a board, which will consist of a chairman and eight ordinary members. The members of the board will be appointed by virtue of their experience in fields of expertise relevant to the functions of the institute.
Eleven State-funded organisations, with a staff of about 250 persons, are currently involved in marine research or marine-related research within the State. A number of these organisations are under the direct control of Government Departments. Following the establishment of the institute, the persons involved may be transferred from their parent Departments to the Department of the Marine and thence to the Marine Institute.
In the case of the organisations not under the direct control of Government Departments, these will be involved in the work of the institute through work commissioned from them.
The institute will have a chief executive officer and a support staff to carry on and manage and control generally the administration and business of the institute.
I consider it important that all funding which was previously allocated to marine research and marine-related research should continue to be so allocated, following the establishment of the institute. I would envisage that this funding will be allocated to the Marine Institute, and, through the institute, to the other State-funded organisations involved in marine research or marine-related research. This allocation will be made in line with the priorities and work programme decided by the board, and approved by me. Because of the universally agreed priority attaching to marine research I envisage that the funding allocated to the Marine Institute, both from the Exchequer and EC sources, will increase in the future.
I am in addition anxious that many of the institute's activities can be carried out on a commercial basis. For example, diagnostic and advisory services provided by the institute could be charged for, if no fee is levied already. The level of the fees charged would be a matter for the board of the institute to determine.
The additional costs of establishing the Marine Institute are minimal. Existing salaries and operational expenses of persons currently involved in marine research or marine-related research, and transferred to the Marine Institute will, as I mentioned before, be transferred to the Institute.
Extra provision has been made in the Estimates of the Department of the Marine for the emoluments and expenses of the board, the salaries and expenses of the chief executive of the institute and his support staff, and for other miscellaneous expenses. In relation to expenditure on marine research programmes proper during 1990, an earnest of the Government's commitment to this area is that the direct allocation to marine development contained in my Departments' Vote has been increased by 13 per cent from £800,000 to £900,000.
I commend the Bill to the House.