Ireland builds marine future with Sea Change strategy

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Functional foods, Nutrition, Omega-3 fatty acid

Ireland officially launched its Sea Change strategy last week,
which aims to shift the sector away from the traditional
food-harvest view and drive it into new market-led opportunities
including functional foods.

Ireland has 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. But the country is looking to move away from the long-held view that the sea is to be tapped solely as a source of food. Peter Heffernan, CEO of The Marine Institute, the lead agency for the programme, said: "There are significant opportunities to develop Ireland's marine resources by focusing scientific and technological effort on emerging niche areas."Sea Change – A Marine Knowledge, Research, and Innovation Strategy 2007-2013​, represents a total investment of €365m by the government's National Development Plan, EU research grants and exchequer funding. The market for marine-derived ingredients, health products, and sources of bio-chemical processes is estimated to soon bring in around €100bn a year on a global scale. Indeed, the marine environment has yielded some of the most promising bioactives for human health – such as omega-3 fatty acids, phospholipids, and seaweeds. Dr John Joyce of The Marine Institute told NutraIngredients.com that the main bodies involved in the functional foods aspect of the strategy at present are Enterprise Ireland, An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (the sea-fisheries board), Teagasc (agriculatural research organisation), and the Department of Food and Agriculture. There are four main elements to its: to develop strong interdisciplinary research capabilities that can exploit marine biodiversity as a source of materials for use in functional foods; to develop the capability to process marine-based materials for functional foods use; to create new research capabilities; and to link Irish and mutinatioanl food and pharmaceutical industries with third-level researchers. Potential themes for the Sea Change research on functional foods, which comes under the 'Discovery' research measure, were discussed at a workshop held in late January 26 in Oranmore, Co Galway. These include extraction of functional ingredients from seafood waste – a notion that ties in closely with issues of sustainability. Global human fish consumption increasing at a rate of knots: it is around 15.7kg per person per year, up from 7kg in 1950. By 2020 it is expected to have risen to 17.1kg per person. As many fish stocks have become over-exploited, on the other hand, global capture fisheries are predicted to grow by less than 0.7 per cent per year. To help prevent the broadening of a gap that could have implications for human health, there is a need to make the most efficient use of marine food possible through new products and processing techniques – including functional foods. Functional ingredients can sometimes be extracted from the waste that is left behind by other industrial processes. For instance, crude fish oil (from which omega-3 oils are derived) is a by-product of fish stock. This means that different elements of the same fish can be used for different purposes, where previously each fish may have been earmarked for just one use and the waste discarded. Launching the strategy on Friday, Noel Dempsey, Ireland's minister for communications, marine and natural resources, said it presents a national agenda comprising science, research, innovation and management aimed at a complete transformation of the Irish maritime economy. Functional food falls under the Discovery research measure, which also aims to improve understanding in the areas of marine biodiscovery and biotechnology, marine technology, renewable ocean energy, and rapid climate change. The Sea Change programme will be managed by a high-level steering group drawn from senior management of state agencies, industry representatives and third-level interests.

Related topics: Omega-3s & Nutritional oils

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