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John Kerry
United States Senator

John Kerry served as the United States’ 68th Secretary of State from 2013 to 2017.

As America’s top diplomat, he guided the Department’s strategy on nuclear non-proliferation, combating radical extremism and the threat of climate change. His tenure was marked by the successful negotiation of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Agreement. From 1985 to 2013, he served as a U.S. Senator representing Massachusetts, and was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2009 to 2013. 

He served in the U.S. Navy, completing two combat tours of duty in Vietnam for which he received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts.

He received his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his law degree from Boston College Law School.

Secretary Kerry is the best-selling author of A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America, This Moment on Earth, as well as his recently published memoir, Every Day Is Extra, his first memoir.

He currently serves as the Distinguished Fellow for Global Affairs at Yale University and the Visiting Distinguished Statesman for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Simon Coveney
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade

Simon Coveney is a T.D. for the Cork South Central constituency, Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for Brexit.

Born in Cork, Mr. Coveney holds a B.Sc. in Agriculture and Land Management from The Royal Agricultural University, Gloucestershire. He was also educated at Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare; University College Cork and Gurteen Agricultural College, County Tipperary.

Mr. Coveney has previously served as Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Minister for Defence. He was elected to the European Parliament in 2004 and was a member of the EPP-ED group. Mr. Coveney was the author of the European Parliament’s Annual Report on Human Rights in the World for the year 2004 and again for 2006.

A keen fan of all competitive sport, he played rugby for Garryowen, Cork Constitution and Crosshaven Rugby Club. In 1997/8 he led the “Sail Chernobyl Project” which involved sailing 30,000 miles around the world for charity.

Mr. Coveney continues to be involved in the running of a family farm in County Cork. He is married to Ruth, with three daughters.

Alicia O'Sullivan
Young Ocean Ambassador

Alicia O'Sullivan is a 17-year-old youth activist from Skibbereen, West Cork, Ireland.

At an early age Alicia began volunteering and campaigning for change on many different issues. She joined Cork County Comhairle Na nÓg (i.e. youth council) in 2016 and has been part of a group successful in working on the reform of sexual education in Ireland.

In 2017 she began working with YMCA Ireland and with this organisation she began developing her digital media skills for advocacy and creativity.

In 2018 she won a mentorship with the ESB as 'TechSpacer of the Year' for her outstanding participation in digital creativity projects by using digital tools to achieve social change.

In 2019 she was titled Lions Club Youth Ambassador for Ireland and began developing ‘GenerationZ’ which is a project aimed at helping parents understand their children and to succour communication on a variety of issues like mental health and LGBT+ matters.

Alicia is one of millions of Climate Strikers around the world and is passionate about youth voice and engagement. She hopes to pursue law and politics after school.

Michael Creed
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Michael Creed is a T.D. for the Cork North-West constituency and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Born in Macroom, Minister Creed was educated at St. Colman's College, Fermoy, De La Salle College, Macroom, at University College Cork and the College of Commerce, Rathmines.

He was a member of Cork County Council from 1987 until 2007. He was elected chairman from 2005 to 2006.

He was first elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1989 general election and retained his seat until 2002.

He was chairman of the Dáil Small Business and Services Committee from 1995-97. He was party spokesperson on Education, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (1994), Health (1989-93) and Youth and Sport (1993-94).

After regaining his Dáil seat at the 2007 general election, he was party spokesperson on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (2007-2010). At the 2011 general election he topped the poll in the first preference vote and in the 2016 general election he was the first to be elected.

He was appointed Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on 6th May 2016 and reappointed on 14th June 2017.

Peter Heffernan
CEO Marine Institute

Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive of the Marine Institute, Ireland’s national agency for marine research and development, has spearheaded the organisation’s expansion from a staff of 1 to over 200 with a budget over €62 million and delivery of a number of major infrastructure projects.

Peter has played a number of key roles as a Board member of Ireland’s intergrated seabed mapping programme (INFOMAR).  The programme has placed Ireland centre-stage among global leaders in marine stewardship, seabed mapping and development of marine resources.

In 2013 Peter acted as an inspiration for the creation of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (AORA) with the signing of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation between Canada, the European Union and the United States of America with the objective to promote ocean cooperation.

Peter is an active member of the Irish Government’s Marine Coordination Group which produced the first integrated marine plan for Ireland called Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth (2012).

Tara Shine
TV Presenter, Writer & Public Speaker

Dr Tara Shine is an expert in the field of climate change. With more than 20 years’ experience influencing and informing international and national policy making to ensure equity, gender equality, inclusion and environmental protection, Tara advises world leaders, governments, multilateral agencies and civil society organisations on climate change, environmental policy and development assistance.

She has worked as a climate negotiator at the UN for 10 years and acted as a reviewer of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C. She is a guest lecturer on several degrees and masters’ courses in Irish Universities and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Institute for Environment and Development. Dr Shine is an alumna of Homeward Bound, the global leadership programme for women in science.

As an environmental scientist Tara understands the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on people and their rights. Her focus is on solutions that are accessible to all.

Carmelo Abela
Minister of Foreign Affairs & Trade Promotion, Malta

A member of the Malta Labour Party, Carmelo Abela was appointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion in June 2017.

From December 2014 he served as Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, having worked with the Prime Minister as Government Spokesman and Whip since April 2014.

Prior to this, he worked in the financial sector having joined Mid-Med Bank Ltd (now HSBC Bank Malta plc), where he was a Manager until April 2014.

Damien English
Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development

Damien English TD is Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government with special responsibility for Housing and Urban Development. He previously served as Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal in May 2016.  He is a member of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party representing the constituency of Meath West. Damien first stood for election in 1999 and was elected to Meath County Council for the Navan electoral area. In the 2002 general election, Damien was elected to the 29th Dáil as TD for the Meath constituency.  At 24 years of age he was the youngest TD in the 29th Dáil.

Damien was elected secretary to the Fine Gael parliamentary party in 2002 and became the party deputy spokesperson on Arts, Sports and Tourism. In October 2004 he was appointed deputy spokesperson on Justice and Community Affairs with special responsibility for Drugs, Alcohol and Crime Prevention. From 2002-2007, Damien was a member of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.


Geraldine Byrne Nason
Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the UN

Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason is the Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations.  Geraldine is a career diplomat who has served in Brussels, New York, Paris, Vienna and Helsinki during her career.  As Secretary-General in the Prime Minister’s office from 2011-2014, she was the highest ranking female public servant in Ireland.

While Geraldine began her career at the UN, subsequently much of her service has been focused on Europe where she served as ambassador to the EU from 2007-2011.  She also headed Ireland’s National Forum on Europe and more recently was SG responsible for EU affairs.  From 2014-2017, she served as the Ambassador to France and Monaco.  In 2013 Geraldine was named in the Irish media one of Ireland’s most powerful women.

In 2014, she was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, Ireland’s highest academic honour.  She holds an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Maynooth University as well as master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Literature from Saint Patrick’s College in Maynooth.  Ms. Byrne Nason is married and has one son.

Jim Gannon
CEO, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

Jim Gannon has been Chief Executive of SEAI since May 2016, and has overseen the growth of the organization from a budget of €75m to €150m, initiating a change process across a range of incentive programmes and delivering SEAI’s policy advisory and statutory functions for the Government of Ireland.

Prior to this role, Jim spent 15 years in the private sector with RPS working in energy and environmental consultancy on both policy and infrastructure projects.

Niall Gibbons,
CEO, Tourism Ireland

Niall oversees the marketing of the island of Ireland as a tourism destination across the world, leading a team of around 150 staff in 21 markets.

2018 was the best year ever for tourism to the island of Ireland, with approximately 11.2 million overseas visitors, delivering €6.1 billion to the economy and supporting over 325,000 jobs across the island. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has ranked Ireland 3rd in the world, out of 136 countries, for “effectiveness of marketing and branding to attract tourists”.

Niall is a business graduate of Trinity College Dublin and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland. In February 2019, he became President of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. He also sits on the Export Trade Council for the Irish Government, is a member of Culture Ireland’s Expert Advisory Committee and an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality in Ireland.

Stephen Hughes
Manager; Construction, Cleantech, Timber and Consumer Retail; Enterprise Ireland

Stephen is a Senior Manager with Enterprise Ireland, the Irish  government organisation responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets. Included in his portfolio is Enterprise Ireland’s focus on Marine & the Renewable Energy Sectors.

Stephen has over 30 years experience in economic and export development including 13 years overseas, where he more recently led Ireland’s drive to build export growth in UK and Northern Europe. Based in London, Stephen led the operations of the agency with teams in the UK, France, Benelux and Scandinavia . He has also undertaken assignments in Eastern Europe and the Middle East as well as holding key regional and sector lead positions with Enterprise Ireland. He is a former board member of the Design and Craft Council of Ireland and Irish Design 2015.

Stephen has extensive experience in advising Government and in working at sector, national, regional and international levels in supporting the development and growth of Irish SME’s.

Eoghan Linehan
Senior Manager, PwC

Eoghan is a Senior Manager in PwC’s Business Recovery and Forensic Accounting Services practice, based in its Cork office at One Albert Quay.

Eoghan advises clients on forensic accounting, restructuring, transactional, and operational and business performance matters. He is experienced in operating businesses and leading teams across various sectors.

Gerard McCarthy
Lecturer and Principal Investigator, Maynooth University

Gerard is an oceanographer working at ICARUS (Irish Climate Research and Analysis Unit) and a lecturer in the Department of Geography at Maynooth University.

Gerard previously worked at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK, where he worked with the RAPID team measuring the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.

He is a leading observational physical oceanographer, with particular interest in changing ocean circulation and sea level rise. He is the 2019 recipient of the IAPSO early career medal for physical oceanography.

Declan McDonald
Partner, PwC

Declan is a partner in PwC Ireland’s Advisory practice. He is the Irish representative on PwC’s global ocean economy team and leads the firm’s industry partnership with the Marine Institute.

He has a keen personal interest in all things marine both from a business and recreational perspective.

Cait Murray-Green
Chief Executive, CuanTec

Dr Cait Murray-Green, founder and CEO of CuanTec with over 15 years’ experience in working with scientists to help grow and develop businesses. She began as a research scientist and then moved through product development, sales and business development roles in international companies as well as having roles in the public sector supporting others to commercialise their ideas.

The story of CuanTec predates the global awakening to the damage of ocean plastic pollution, and they are acknowledged as one of Scotland’s leading companies in the Bioeconomy area. Winners of the Higgs Edge prize at Scottish Edge in June 2017 and winners of the RSPB Nature in Scotland Innovation award in Nov 2018 as well as being successful in the JLAB innovation challenge from John Lewis Partnership, CuanTec have developed a Circular Economy approach to using technology from the marine environment to prevent further Ocean pollution and also to reduce food waste.

Jim O’Toole
Chief Executive Officer, Bord Iascaigh Mhara

Jim O’Toole is Chief Executive Officer of Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency and has a wealth of experience in global food marketing, sustainability development and change leadership.  Jim was appointed to this role in BIM in April 2017. 

Previously held several senior positions in Bord Bia, Irish Food Board, where he led the development of the Origin Green initiative, had responsibility for the development of Quality Assurance Schemes and gained extensive experience in the marketplace working for some 15 years in London, Milan and Paris.

Mr O’Toole is a Board Member of the Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB) and holds a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Science from University College Dublin. He has completed professional development programmes at Ashridge Business School, Cranfield University, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and Harvard Business School.

Jamie Rowles
Head of Investments, Sky Ocean Ventures

Jamie joined the Sky Ocean Ventures team to lead the fund’s investment processes and portfolio management.  Before joining the team, Jamie has experience across the early stage investment lifecycle at four different venture capital funds in both the UK and US and has been part of building strategies around two new fund launches.  Jamie has also been part of the founding teams of, and continues to advise, two early stage technology businesses here in the UK.

Jamie is a graduate from the MBA program at UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management in Los Angeles, California (Price Award for Entrepreneurial Studies).  Prior to his MBA, Jamie was a private equity lawyer for six years in the UK and the Middle East and is a graduate of the University of Bristol.

Yvonne Shields
Chief Executive, Commissioners of Irish Lights

Yvonne has been Chief Executive of Irish Lights since 2011. Irish Lights delivers an essential navigation safety service around the coast of Ireland, protecting lives, property and the marine environment.

Yvonne previously worked in the Marine Institute as Director of Strategic Planning and Development. She has extensive experience in marine policy, strategy, research, development and the delivery of operational services at sea.

She led the development and implementation of the national Sea Change Strategy 2007-2013,

Peter Thomson
UN Special Envoy on the Ocean

Peter Thomson is a Fijian diplomat who served as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations from September 2016 until September 2017. He was Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations between 2010 and 2016. For the year 2014, he was elected President of the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS).

He led the Fiji team of diplomats that in 2013 chaired the Group of 77 and China – the UN’s largest negotiating group comprised of 133 developing countries. He was elected as President of the International Seabed Authority’s Assembly in 2011 and as President of its Council in 2015. In October 2017, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed Ambassador Thomson as the first UNSG’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, in which role he is driving the implementation of SDG14, the UN Sustainable Development Agenda’s goal to conserve and sustainably use the resources of the Ocean.

Susan Steele
Chair & CEO, Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority

Dr Susan Steele is Chair and CEO of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, the state body responsible for regulating the sea-fisheries and seafood sectors.

A childhood love of the sea inspired her to be a marine biologist and a varied and successful career that is dedicated to all things sea-related.   Susan holds a PhD in marine biology, an MBA and a master’s degree in adult education among many other qualifications.

Susan’s passion for the sea carries over into her spare time and she is a year round daily swimmer at Inchydoney. When she isn’t swimming, Susan can be found indulging other passions – ultra running and flying planes so it’s not surprising she was shortlisted for Outsider magazine’s professional of the year 2018.

She has seven children.

Koen Verbruggen
Director, Geological Survey Ireland

Koen Verbruggen is the Director of Geological Survey Ireland (GSI), which is the Irish geoscience agency and knowledge centre, and part of the Government Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

He has been with GSI since 2000, working in Minerals and then Information Management where he developed GSI’s free digital data on-line policy. From 2006-13 he managed INFOMAR (Integrated Mapping for Sustainable Development of Irelands Marine Resource), the Irish national marine mapping programme run in conjunction with the Marine Institute, which is acknowledged as a global exemplar programme. In 2013 he became Director of GSI and for 2015 & 2016 he was elected President of EuroGeoSurveys, the organisation which represents all European Geological Surveys.

Prior to GSI, Koen worked for 15 years in the international exploration industry, principally in the minerals sector in Ireland, Canada, Australia, Mexico and Africa. He holds a BSc in Geology and MSc in Petroleum Geology from University College Dublin, he is a long term Professional Member of the Institute of Geologists of Ireland (P.Geo) and the European Federation of Geologists (EFG). In 2018 Koen was admitted as a Member of the Royal Irish Academy (MRIA).