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Ireland’s Ocean Economy


The “Irelands Ocean Economy” series of reports have been produced the NUI Galway’s Socio-Economic Marine Research Institute and form part on an ongoing process of collection of subsequent analysis of marine socio-economic data. The work was undertaken by the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) at NUI Galway and Teagasc. The main research focus of the unit is on the economic importance of coastal and off-shore marine environments. This involves examining the economic utility of the marine environment (e.g. transportation, recreation) and ecological value (e.g. fisheries, aquaculture) derived from the productivity of associated ecosystems. 

Started 2009 – latest versions available 2017

Application in MSP:
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Questions this practice may help answer

  • What methodologies exist for economic marine data collection?
  • What are the current economic trends across existing and emerging sectors in Ireland?
  • What sources of marine socio-economic data exist?
  • How easy is it to compare socio-economic data between different countries?

Implementation Context

The aim of the Irish Ocean Economy Series is to establish a common methodology and provide comparative data to facilitate the identification of trends in the marine economy and ascertain the impacts of policy and other interventions on these trends. The Ireland’s Ocean Economy Report Series is funded through the Beaufort Marine Research Award, which is carried out under the Sea Change Strategy and the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation (2006-2013) which identified the need to build capacity in the field of marine socio-economics.

Marine socio-economic data are not readily available in Ireland. However, they are essential in determining the value of Ireland’s ocean economy, so as to realise its full potential. SEMRU began the extensive task of data collection and analysis of Ireland’s ocean economy in 2009. This work has resulted in the publication of a series of reports every two years with a view to consistently monitoring Ireland’s Ocean Economy and compile a cross sectoral profile.

Aspects / Objectives

The key objective of the Ireland’s Ocean Economy reports is to provide quantification and monitoring of Ireland’s marine data in order to fully quantify data from key sectors which contribute to the ocean economy of Ireland consistently over time and therefore create a comparable sectoral profile. This work will allow policy makers and government to assess whether targets are being met in accordance with those set out in ‘Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth’ (Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland, 2012). The Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth Strategy seeks to expand the Irish Marine Sector to a total of €6.4bn in 2020 representing an increase of €3.2bn on 2010.

The key aims are:

  • Provide a profile of Ireland’s ocean economy (in the latest version of the report for 2014-2016 )
  • Provide estimates for turnover, Gross Value Added1 (GVA) and employment Assist in monitoring progress of a number of targets set out in the Government’s Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland - Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth (2012)
  • Provide an overview of the policy environment and outlook for sectors where appropriate
  • Reports will be periodically updated (latest release 2017, 4th version)


For the purpose of the report, the ocean economy has been defined as any economic activity that directly or indirectly uses the sea as an input or produces an output for use in a sea-specific activity. The coastal economy, on the other hand, represents all economic activity that takes place in the coastal region; for example, agriculture, which is not part of the ocean economy.

Definitions of marine-based industries within the ocean economy differ across countries. The general approach taken to produce the latest report was as follows:

  1. Revise and update the industries from previous reports that are part of the ocean economy
  2. Identify the marine sectors for which there is publically available data
  3. Estimate the proportion of economic activity that is marine-based using proxies
  4. Record levels of turnover, employment and gross value-added for each industry that is in the ocean economy
  5. Identify sectors where alternative data collection methods must be developed, i.e. surveys
  6. Certain sectors are clearly identifiable as fully marine, for example shipping and maritime transport or sea fisheries.

Data on other marine activity can often be difficult to obtain; for example, marine engineering data cannot be differentiated from general engineering using the data collected by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Therefore, these sectors require additional work (surveys/proxies) to ensure that they are represented in the ocean economy. The general approach adopted in this report for assessing Ireland’s ocean economy has been concerned with production activity. The Business Demography (BD) and Structural Business Statistics (SBS) Division in the CSO provides data on turnover, GVA, employment, and where available, exports for each sector within the Irish economy. The data are collected across a number of censuses and surveys. The CSO census and surveys used for the collation of the data on Ireland’s ocean economy include:

  • The Census of Industrial Production (CIP)
  • The Annual Services Inquiry (ASI)
  • Building and Construction Inquiry (BCI)
  • Business Register
  • Intrasta

N.B. The data relating to marine activity from these censuses and surveys is provided at the NACE four-digit level.

A detailed description of the methodology regarding data collection and analysis for each sector is available Appendix of the latest version (2017) of the report.

Main Outputs / Results

The report identified a number of key direct economic impacts which can be summarised as follows:

  • The ocean economy had a turnover of €5.7 billion in 2016.
  • The indirect economic value in 2016 amounted to €1.57 billion, with a total direct and indirect value of €3.37 billion, which represents 1.7% of GDP.
  • The ocean economy provided employment to over 30,000 individuals, full-time equivalents (FTEs) in 2016.
  • Established Marine Industries had a turnover of €5.3 billion and provided employment to 28,231 FTEs in 2016, representing 93% of the total turnover and 94% of total employment in Ireland’s ocean economy in 2016. Oil and gas exploration and production, marine aquaculture and tourism and leisure in marine and coastal areas, all experienced a significant increase in activity, with turnover, GVA and employment increasing across the sector in the 2014-2016 period. The shipping and maritime transport sector also exhibited increases, albeit of a smaller scale, across all three variables.
  • Emerging Marine Industries had a turnover of €383 million and provided employment to close to 2,000 FTEs representing 7% of the turnover and 6% of employment in Ireland’s ocean economy in 2016. Advanced marine technology products and services and marine renewable energy experienced the largest increases in turnover and gross value add (GVA), while employment rose in all emerging sectors in the 2014-2016 period.


This report is specific to the marine economy of Ireland however the methodology could be used for other economies where comparable data sources exist. 

Responsible Entity

Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) at NUI Galway and Teagasc

Costs / Funding Source

Carried out with the  support of the Marine Institute and it is funded by the Marine Research Sub-Programme PBA/SE/16/01 Valuing and understanding the dynamics of Ireland’s Ocean Economy. Direct costs of this practice elaboration are unknown. 

Contact person

Dr. Stephen Hynes,
Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit,
J.E Cairnes School of Business and Economics,
National University of Ireland, Galwa

Email: (semru[at]nuigalway[dot]ie)