Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

By: Capt. Brian FitzGerald – Simply Blue Group

Ireland’s second Seafarer Conference took place at the Castletroy Park Hotel, Limerick on Thursday 23rd February, on the eve of The Skipper Expo.  Running the Seafarer Conference in association with the Expo underpinned the success of this year’s event.  The relationship brought the offshore renewable energy industry to the fishing industry, leading to many rich and worthwhile discussions on the eve of the main event.  Evidencing the success, the Conference increased its registrations from 70 in 2022 (albeit constrained by COVID), to 210 in 2023, suggesting this as a winning formula going forward.

The Conference began with a review of the outcomes from the first Seafarer Conference in 2022. This set the context, while simultaneously placing many of the speakers on notice to report on their homework over the last year!  The opening address was delivered by Mr. Simon Harris, TD., the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. The Minister emphasised the importance of the overarching theme being discussed, i.e. the co-existence of different maritime stakeholders, as we adapt to the energy transition. He outlined the skills development programmes planned and underway to deliver the 2022 report – ‘Skills for  Zero Carbon’.  The Conference programme that followed explored these important topics through four panel discussions, with leading speakers and panel Chairs from Ireland’s maritime sectors. The event was moderated by Ireland’s best-known maritime correspondent, – Lorna Siggins.  The four panels comprised:

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

Pictured at the Simply Blue Group Seafarers Conference in Limerick was John Lynch, Chair of Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation.
Picture. John Allen

Each panel included a speaker from a different discipline to enrich the conversation.  For example, the opening panel included a section on electro fuels and energy parks, – providing a whole new set of considerations surrounding energy independence for Ireland through the manufacture of our own sustainable liquid fuels as a downstream product from wind energy.  Other invited disciplines included ecosystem research in the thriving fishing panel and Marine Protection Areas in the closing panel.  This led to a rich diversity of information and discussions.

Emergent themes identified some actions to be undertaken.  Firstly, and most obviously is the call for all stakeholders to communicate meaningfully as Ireland transforms its’ policies and uses of the sea to deliver necessary climate action.  Secondly, is the need for mutual respect to ensure optimal results and a sustainable future for all. Thirdly, is the need to protect our biodiversity as a failure to tackle climate change will be catastrophic for all our interests.  Ireland must now seek to build data on cumulative impact to inform our decision making.  Fourthly, is the need to grow the skills to deliver on what will be a maritime industrial revolution that will need all of Ireland’s maritime expertise working in harmony.  Finally, is the need to engage in port designation and invest in port infrastructure to ensure that Ireland is ready to reap the socio-economic benefits from the multitude of transformative uses of the sea that are now in the offing.  Further details on the Conference recommendations and actions will appear in the April edition.

In summary, Ireland’s second annual Seafarer Conference was a success.  Running in compliment with the Skipper Expo was a significant part of that success, resulting in a rich and respectful conversation about the myriad challenges and opportunities facing Ireland’s seafarers, coastal communities, and industry stakeholders.  With communication identified as key, and the voice of Ireland’s fishermen being central to that, it is hoped that the Seafarer Conference as part of The Skipper Expo will grow in strength into an annual event through which Irish solutions can be found to worldly problems.