The Marine Institute (Foras na Mara) is the national agency responsible to the Irish government for advice on and implementation of marine research, technology, development and innovation (RTDI) policy and marine research services that critically inform policy objectives, management and sustainable development strategies for marine resources.

The Marine Institute is headquartered at Rinville, near Oranmore, County Galway on the west coast of Ireland. It also operates an aquaculture and catchment management laboratory and office facility at Furnace, near Newport, Co. Mayo as well as offices and laboratories in a number of Ireland's fishing ports.

The Marine Institute oversees the operation of Ireland's two purpose-built research vessels, the RV Celtic Voyager and RV Celtic Explorer as well as co-ordinating Sea Change - a seven-year Marine Knowledge, Research & Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007 - 2013.

The Marine Institute employs approximately 240 staff including specialists in fisheries, marine environment, technology, aquaculture, catchment management, ocean energy, functional foods and marine climate change, as well as experts in information technology, communications and logistical support.

The vision statement of the Marine Institute is
"A thriving maritime economy in harmony with the ecosystem and supported by the delivery of excellence in our services."

History of the Marine Institute:
Following the recommendation of the 1974 National Science Council report Ireland, Science and the Sea, the Marine Institute was established by the Irish government under the Marine Institute Act of 1991 to undertake, to co-ordinate, to promote and to assist in marine research and development and to provide such services that, in the opinion of the Institute will promote economic development and create employment and protect the marine environment.

Starting with the appointment of its Chief Executive Officer - Dr Peter Heffernan - followed by four Programme Managers in Marine Environment, Marine Food, Marine Technology and Marine Leisure and Tourism in 1995, the Marine Institute grew rapidly, to include the Irish Marine Data Centre and existing marine research facilities at Abbotstown, County Dublin and the Salmon Research Agency at Newport.

1998 saw the arrival of Ireland's first purpose-built research vessel, the 31 metre long RV Celtic Voyager. This was followed in 2000 by the announcement that the Institute would be moving from Dublin to new premises in Galway, and the arrival of the larger 65 metre deepwater research vessel RV Celtic Explorer in 2002.

2006 saw the Marine Institute move into its purpose-built headquarters and laboratory complex at Rinville Oranmore. This building, which has won several architectural awards, houses 54 dedicated research laboratories, an auditorium capable of seating 150 people, a marine science library and an office crescent.

In 2006 the Institute also embarked on the planning and execution of Sea Change-A Marine Knowledge, Research & Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007-2013, aimed at applying state-of-the-art technology and innovation to the sustainable economic development of Ireland's oceans and seas in such a way as to increase their economic return from an annual 3 billion in 2007 to 4.5 billion by the end of the programme.

Structure and Functions of the Marine Institute:

The Marine Institute functions through the activities of its seven service teams covering:

Marine Environment and Food Safety Services(MEFS):
Marine Environment & Food Safety Services (MEFS) provides essential scientific advice and a range of marine environmental monitoring services to help ensure Irish seafood products meet approved standards. The Fish Health Team works with the marine food industry to protect the health status of Irish farmed salmon, trout and shellfish.

Food Safety Monitoring ensures that Irish marine fish, shellfish and seafood products remain safe from elevated levels of residues and contaminants. This monitoring complies with a range of EU Directives as well as with national requirements.

The Marine Institute runs a national Harmful Algal Bloom (HABS) monitoring service that warns producers and consumers of concentrations of toxic plankton in Irish coastal waters that could contaminate shellfish or cause fish deaths.

Environmental Monitoring is designed to assess levels, distribution and trends of man-made contaminants and naturally occurring biotoxins. Pollution may adversely affect the health of the seas and ultimately limit man's ability, or that of future generations, to use the seas as a sustainable resource.

Fisheries Science Services (FSS):
Fisheries Science Services research, assess and advise on the sustainable exploitation of the marine fisheries resources in the waters around Ireland. These waters contain some of the most productive fishing grounds in the world with International fishing fleets operating here landing around 700,000 tonnes of fish in 2004, worth 500 million.

These waters are important fish spawning and nursery grounds and their 'Biological Sensitivity ' is recognised internationally. To ensure the sustainable exploitation of this valuable fisheries resource and to protect the sensitive habitats in which they live, fisheries science is becoming a more 'broader based' science that will link into the concept of 'ocean management' and not just 'fisheries management'. Linking fisheries data with oceanographic, sea bed mapping and climate change data; examining predator prey relationships and interacting with stakeholders are all important components of a new form of 'ocean management advice' which comes under the umbrella of the 'ecosystem approach'. This approach considers all marine related activities such as fishing, gravel extraction and leisure use in a specific area (e.g. the Irish Sea) and provides advice in this context.

Fisheries Science Services carries out fisheries surveys in the waters around Ireland using the research vessels RV Celtic Explorer
and RV Celtic Voyager. These surveys collect extensive data for both national and international stock assessments of the main commercial species of fish and shellfish. Survey work is also conducted aboard commercial fishing vessels and FSS staff collect data on the age and length profile of landings and examine fleet activity and fishing patterns. This information is used to produce the annual 'Stock Book' which is the primary source of scientific advice on marine fisheries to the Irish Government and the Industry and is used to support fisheries negotiations with the European Union.

Ocean Science Services (OSS):
Ocean Science Services (OSS) provide support for national and international marine research programmes through three teams:
Research Vessel Operations
Advanced Seabed Mapping
Oceanographic Services

Research Vessel Operations:

Research Vessel Operations manage the Marine Institute's research fleet, the RV Celtic Explorer and the RV Celtic Voyager, and also manage the foreign research vessel notification process.
The 65m long RV Celtic Explorer is a highly sophisticated low-noise multipurpose research vessel designed for undertaking a wide array of offshore and deep-sea survey operations. The RV Celtic Voyager is a 31.4m multipurpose vessel suited to coastal research and off shore survey operations. Both vessels are fully fitted with state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation, laboratories and IT equipment and are used for a variety of applications including fisheries research, environmental monitoring, seabed mapping, oceanology, seismic surveys, student training and meteorological investigations.

Advanced Mapping Service Group:

Advanced Mapping Service Group carries out routine hydrographic and geophysical mapping for the Irish National Seabed Survey, the Integrated Mapping for the Sustainable Development of Irelands Marine Resource (INFOMAR) and benthic fisheries projects. The team has considerable expertise in Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and resource mapping, including aspects of aggregates exploration and marine pelagic and benthic habitat mapping.
The Advanced Mapping Section also mobilises and carries out rig site geo hazard surveys, pipeline investigations and are an active partners in the Mapping of European Seabed Habitats Project (MESH); concentrating on development of habitat mapping tools. This section also has the tools and infrastructure that permits acquisition, processing and interpretation of large survey data sets.

Oceanographic Services:

Oceanographic Services provide comprehensive oceanographic services, including the National Weather Buoy Network of five buoys around the Irish coast. The team is also involved in the establishment of an Irish tide gauge network, ocean modeling, satellite remote sensing and oceanographic support of diverse seagoing research programmes related to marine fisheries and environment.

Strategic Planning, and Development Services:
Strategic Planning, and Development Services (SPDS) identify and catalyse opportunities offered by new and emerging marine sectors.

International Co-operation provides input to the development of European Union and international Marine Research, Technology, Development & Innovation (RTDI) policy and to facilitate Irish participation in international RTDI programmes.

Foresight and Planning supports the identification of national and international Marine RTDI trends and opportunities, including the development, monitoring and reviewing of RTDI performance and consultation with stakeholders.

Marine Technology catalyses RTDI programmes and initiatives aimed at the development of new and innovative marine products and services in marine technology and engineering, including Ocean Energy, Marine Biotechnology and Advance Technologies & Instrumentation.

Industry Liaison Services provide advice and support to Small to Medium sized Enterprises seeking to invest in R&D activities with assistance in identifying collaborative R&D projects between industry and the third level sector.

Information Services & Development (IS&D) assist the Marine Institute with advice to stakeholders, the development of data management policies & practises, and the management of the day to day IT needs of the organisation.

National Development Plan Administration is responsible for the administration of the National Development Plan Marine RTDI Measure - an essential pillar for marine research funding in Ireland.

The Strategic Planning and Management Services team is also responsible for the co-ordination of Sea Change - A Marine Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007 - 2013.
Sea Change:

Sea Change - A Marine Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007- 2013, presents a national agenda, comprising science, research, innovation and management, aimed at a complete transformation of the Irish maritime economy.
Sea Change provides a clear and realistic picture of future opportunities and challenges and a roadmap for selective and managed investment in marine research and innovation for the next seven years. It incorporates applied and basic research programmes, which aim to increase industry competitiveness, build new research capacity and address policy issues.

Specifically it seeks to:

Strengthen the competitiveness and environmental sustainability of the marine sector by developing a much greater alignment between public sector & third-level research capacity and industry needs;

Build new multidisciplinary research capacity and capability in fundamental technologies that can be applied to marine-related activities, leading to the acquisition of new technical skills, the flow of personnel between the research community and industry and the creation of new commercial opportunities and applications;

Deliver a comprehensive planned policy research programme which will apply the knowledge gained from research and monitoring to inform public policy, governance and regulation.

The Strategy:

Is informed by a detailed analysis of where new resources need to be targeted in order to address opportunities and needs.

Promotes a multi-agency approach and sets out a blue print to which other agencies can align the formulation of their strategies and investment plans.
Seeks to integrate industrial development agencies.

Incorporates a major international dimension.

The investment required to support the implementation of the Strategy is significant. It will enable the sector to build upon the major advances made in marine research in the period of the current development plan, help remedy the neglect of our marine resource over past decades, and enable the sector to contribute to economic and social development goals.

The Strategy has emerged from a National Marine Foresight Exercise, which involved a wide range of Irish and international experts. It has also benefited from wide ranging consultation with stakeholders.
The Strategy will be implemented via three Research Measures ( Industry, Discovery, andPolicy Support) and two Supporting Programmes (Innovation and Infrastructure).

Aquaculture and Catch Management Services:
The role of Aquaculture & Catchment Management Services (ACMS) is to research, monitor, analyse and advise on fin-fish aquaculture, salmonid rearing, wild salmon & eel stock dynamics and freshwater catchment studies.

The Marine Institute supports innovation in aquaculture through strategic marine research programmes. In addition, the Institute's unique Catchment Research Facility, located in the Burrishoole Valley, Newport, Co. Mayo, is one of the finest natural laboratories in Europe. It is also ideally located to host integrated freshwater and marine research.

The overall objectives of ACMS are to:

Support the sustainable development of the aquaculture industry, including research into novel species, and integrated bay and inshore management strategies.

Establish the Burrishoole catchment and Clew Bay complex as a centre for climate change and environmental research.

Develop the profile of the unique opportunities that the Newport rearing and trapping facilities offer in terms of fisheries and genetic research.

Refine and improve the scientific advice required to manage the wild salmon resource in a sustainable manner.

The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO):
The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) of the Marine Institute is Ireland's first dedicated development, promotional and marketing agency for the shipping services sector. The IMDO's statutory mandate is to promote and develop growth in the Irish Shipping industry, and to attract to Ireland additional marine related service sector operations along with key players in International Shipping and ancillary services.

The shipping services sector is the largest segment of the Irish Marine industrial base employing over 8,000 people while also generating over 1.5 billion within the economy annually. As an Island based economy, maritime transport represents the lifeblood of Irish industry with 99% by volume of all Irish trade travelling by sea. The Irish shipping market connects Irish industry and our economy with the world; in this regard it is one of our most strategically important industries.

IMDO provides assistance to the Irish maritime industry and its consumers in its effort to maintain competitiveness in the International market place. The formulation and delivery of expert advice to Government is amongst the office's principal roles. The office also markets Ireland overseas as a dynamic European location for International shipping services to locate their operations. IMDO has driven a number of successful initiatives including a new highly competitive shipping corporate tax regime, fiscal incentives, mercantile legislative reform and major initiatives in maritime education.

Corporate Services:
Corporate Services supports each of the Marine Institute service areas to deliver a consistent and high quality service in line with the objectives and priorities of the Institute.

Finance is responsible for the ongoing day-to-day management of the Marine Institute budget, the safeguarding of Marine Institute assets and provision of the best possible financial information in order to maximize both resources and efficiencies.

Human Resources deliver award winning HR policies to support the ongoing delivery of services including recruitment, health and safety, performance management and evaluation, training and development, and support to staff.

Communications and Library supports an ongoing programme of events, publications, the www.marine.ie website and media relations. A schools outreach programme linked to the new national curriculum is also being developed under the name Explorers Education Programme.

Facilities are responsible for the maintenance and service of all Marine Institute buildings and general amenities.