Ireland boasts a marine resource of 220m acres. With the recently negotiated increase in Irish fish quotas it projects a total value of €0.25bn in seafish being landed around the country in 2007.
Besides fish, some species of which are described by the Institute as "inherently functional" - that is, providing a health benefit beyond basic nutritional need - the marine environment can also offer components from fish, shellfish, plants and other organisms, such as omega-3, minerals and vitamins, antioxidants, peptides, proteins and enzymes.
The need for the co-ordinated research programme, called Marine Functional Foods and Ingredients, was identified by the report Sea Change - a marine knowledge, research and innovation strategy for Ireland 2007 - 2013. . The report is due to be published early this year as part of the roll out of the government's National Development Plan, under which it is to be funded.
The stated aim for marine industry research is to "strengthen the competitiveness of existing marine industries and to support activities that add value to their outputs in an environmentally sustainable manner".
Potential themes for the research, which will be discussed at a workshop to be held on January 26 in Oranmore, Co Galway, include the extracts from seafood waste. Ingredients developers are increasingly looking to tap the by-products of food production and other industries as they seek sustainable sources of nutrition.
Other themes are the functional ingredients of marine origin, applications for novel marine ingredients, consumer foods of marine origin, safety, ecology and resource management, consumer and marketing, and regulatory affairs/policy.
The workshop will also serve to give an insight into research that is currently underway as part of international collaborations between the fields of marine science and food and nutritional science.
The programme is being developed by The Marine Institute in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland, BIM, Teagasc, and the Department of Agriculture; its thrust of the programme will largely be defined by the government's Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation.