One of the key outputs of the Our Ocean Wealth Summit and Seafest, Ireland's national maritime festival, is to engage and inform the public about our maritime heritage, landscape and ocean wealth. This weekend, the Marine Institute has erected a 13 x 10 metre 'Real Map of Ireland' on the side of the RH Hall building in Cork Harbour, with the kind permission of the building's owners. The aim? To raise the awareness of Ireland's extensive but unseen subsea terrain.
Few people realise that when our seabed territory is taken into account, Ireland is one of the largest countries in Europe. The Real Map of Ireland clearly depicts the full extent of Ireland's marine territory of over 220 million acres (880,000Km2), which is ten times the size of the island of Ireland. The red line on the 'real' map depicts the limit of Ireland's territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone, which extend out across the North Atlantic Ocean and include parts of the Irish and Celtic Seas.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the continental shelf of a coastal state comprises the seabed and subsoil of submarine area that extends to 200 nautical miles from its territorial sea baselines, or further if the natural prolongation of its land mass is beyond this. A coastal state exercises sovereign rights over its continental shelf for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources. Where a margin extends beyond 200 nautical miles, a coastal state may extend its continental shelf limit, subject to the criteria set out in Article 76 of UNCLOS.
Speaking ahead of Our Ocean Wealth Summit on 9 and 10 June, Marine Institute CEO, Dr Peter Heffernan, said, "The sea that surrounds us is one of our greatest natural resources. As a small country it's so important that we value and recognise our immense ocean wealth. We must, of course, manage the health of our oceans also." The Our Ocean Wealth Summit in Cork this year brings together national and international actors in science, policy and civil society to discuss how we can continue to grow our ocean economies while protecting our precious marine resources. "Getting that balance right is a key to sustainability" explained Dr Heffernan.
So if you are out and about in Cork at the weekend, take time to look at the Real Map, proudly displayed in a building size display, and remind yourself that the map of Ireland is bigger than you think.