Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

The Seafarer Conference 2023 – Limerick 23rd February

By: Capt. Brian FitzGerald – Simply Blue Group

Could Ireland have Thriving Fishing, Thriving Offshore Wind, and Thriving Ports & Coastal Communities in happy coexistence? Join us at the Seafarer Conference 2023 to find out. The climate crisis has resulted in a worldwide search for renewable energy solutions on a grand scale. Unsurprisingly, Ireland’s wind regime, continental shelf, vast maritime jurisdiction, and location on the western frontier of Europe combine to offer solutions to the crisis in the form of offshore wind and wave resources that are the envy of many. The Government response to the climate crisis is ambitiously targeting 7GW of renewable energy from offshore wind by 2030 and 30 GW by 2050, resulting in a whole new offshore maritime industry unfolding here, with consequent challenges surrounding the use of sea-space.  The need to protect biodiversity adds a key consideration to how Ireland should optimise the use of its greatest natural asset – the sea. Hence the need to discuss this, develop the necessary skills, and determine our own future.

Within the challenging climate and now energy security crises, can we co-create a sustainable future for all? Can Ireland’s fishing industry thrive alongside large-scale offshore technology? Can Ireland develop a new large-scale offshore wind industry to deliver local socio-economic benefit in harmony with our fishing industry? In endeavouring to answer these questions, the best weathervane is the suitability of our ports and our skills development to meet the future needs of Ireland’s maritime industries.  If both fishing and offshore wind are to thrive, they will need to be supported by ‘fit for purpose’ ports and the availability of a skilled workforce. The seafarers of Ireland know best how to do this.

Commissioning Service Operations Vessels (CSOV) will be required for offshore (image courtesy of Aigeann Marine)


The Conference, taking place at the Castletroy Hotel on the 23rd February will explore these themes through four panel discussions and provide some leading speakers and moderators to do so and we are delighted that once again, our Conference Moderator is Fergal Keane of RTE. The four panels are listed as follows:

  1. Thriving Offshore Wind.
  2. Thriving Fishing.
  3. Thriving Ports and Coastal Communities.
  4. What will success look like in ten years’ time?

The Conference programme for the day will offer opportunity for audience participation both in person and online.

Following the welcome address by Professor Maggie Cusack – President of the Munster Technical University, Mr Simon Harris T.D. Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, and Innovation will deliver the opening address.

The first panel will discuss Thriving Offshore Wind and set the scene for what we hope will be some lively discussions to follow. The panel will be chaired by Capt. Brian FitzGerald and the line-up comprises:

  • Noel Cunniffe – CEO Wind Energy Ireland.
  • Robert McGuinness Department of Environment, Climate and Communications to discuss Future Skills Needs.
  • Norah Parke & Michael Keatinge – KFO, to discuss a whole new approach.
  • Michael Galvin – Simply Blue Group, to discuss a future with sustainable fuels.

The second panel will discuss Thriving Fishing and strive to get to the heart of the challenges ahead. The panel will be chaired by Lorna Siggins and the panel line up comprises:

  • Caroline Bocquel Interim CEO Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) to outline BIM policy and strategy for a thriving fishing industry.
  • John Lynch Chair IS&EFPO to describe the lived experience – what the fishing industry needs to thrive.
  • Davey Hill – Sea Source Offshore Ltd to describe one fisherman’s journey when faced with the challenges of offshore wind.
  • Damian Haberlin – MaREI & John Breslin Bluewise Marine to discuss the ecosystem impacts of offshore wind farms and coexistence through research and stock enhancement.

The third panel will explore Thriving Ports and Coastal Communities and open a conversation about these pivotal nodes in all maritime industries. The panel will focus on the future for ports that have a significant fishing industry at their core. The panel will be chaired by Commander Caoimhin Mac Unfraidh (NMCI) and line-up comprises:

  • Edel O’Connor – IMDO – Ireland’s ports policy and the implications for fishing and offshore wind.
  • Máire Ní Einniú – Údarás na Gaeltachta – the case for the port of Ros a’ Mhíl Co. Galway.
  • Cormac Gebruers – NMCI – future skills needs – offshore wind and fishing ports.
  • Karl Bonner – Killybegs Marine Cluster – sustainability for a fishing port bottom-up approach.

The fourth and final panel will seek to identify what success would look like in 10 years’ time.  This involves discussing goals and aspirations to inspire the policies and strategies to make it all happen. The panel will be chaired by the Chair of the MRIA Peter Coyle and the panel members comprise:

  • Brian Hogan – Chief Surveyor
  • Aoife O’Mahony – Chair Fair Seas Ireland Campaign
  • Valerie Cummins – Director Ireland Projects Simply Blue Group
  • Robert McCabe – Chair Seafood/ORE Working Group

To complete the programme Mr Brian Leddin T.D. Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment & Climate Action will deliver the closing address.

The global challenges of climate change, energy security, food security, and biodiversity loss, place Ireland with its vast wind resource, continental shelf, rich and diverse fishing resource, biodiversity importance and geostrategic location at the heart of Europe’s and the world’s conversation on addressing the associated challenges. This Conference seeks to identify, discuss, and solve the challenges for Ireland’s maritime industries presented by these issues and hopefully deliver co-created Irish solutions to Irish (and global) problems. Be part of the conversation at Limerick on the 23rd of February.

Register through eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/nmci-seafarers-conference-2023-virtual-attendance-tickets-477288010287