Steps towards delivering a planning system for the seas around Ireland have been set out by the Irish government for the first time.

The government's plan is to double the value of Ireland's ocean wealth to 2.4% of GDP by 2030 and increase turnover from its ocean economy to exceed €6.4bn by 2020.

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy and Minister Damien English have published a road map entitled 'Towards a Marine Spatial Plan for Ireland' for the development of Ireland’s first marine spatial plan, which aims to balance the different demands for using the sea including the need to protect the marine environment.

As an island nation, with sovereign rights over one of the largest marine areas in Europe, Ireland’s economy, culture and society is inextricably linked to the sea. Its marine environment is a national asset that yields multiple commercial and non-commercial benefits.

In order to create places and spaces where people can work, live and enjoy, those with an interest can have their say in the marine planning process.

Driven by the EU, it will ultimately give local or national authorities new powers beyond the current system of foreshore licensing requirements, effectively introducing a planning system for Irish seas.

The road map document marks the first stage in the development of Ireland’s marine spatial plan.

Minister Murphy said: “Ireland is a maritime nation and we derive so much of our cultural, social and economic identity from our relationship with the seas that surround us. We are fortunate to have one of the largest and richest marine resources of all EU Member States.

“The government has set out clear and ambitious objectives under Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth (HOOW) - Ireland’s integrated marine plan - to enable our marine potential to be realised. For example, we aim to double the value of our ocean wealth to 2.4% of GDP by 2030 and increase the turnover from our ocean economy to exceed €6.4bn by 2020. Reaching these goals will mean significant growth in seafood production and aquaculture, maritime transport, marine renewable energy, marine biotechnology and ICT, marine and coastal tourism and leisure.

“At the same time, we also recognise the importance of our rich marine biodiversity and ecosystems to our ocean wealth. We need a marine spatial plan to provide a coherent strategic spatial framework encompassing all plans and sectoral policies for the marine area that also ensures the sustainable management of our marine environment.”