Ireland, as an island nation with over 9,000 kilometres of coastline and almost 1,000 kilometres of navigable waterways, is a country with a vast expanse of coastline and miles of unexploited and underutilised natural resources.
The IMF says that our Governments marine policy runs counter to a marine-friendly policy within the European Union, and that by carving up marine responsibilities between several ministers marine policy has become increasingly disjointed. The European Union is developing a policy on the marine which identifies and embraces each maritime sector and calls for a coordinated European marine development policy but in Ireland our Government is busily dismantling the marine brief and fragmenting the responsibilities across as many as six different Government departments., it says.
Almost every developed maritime nation has a national marine policy that evaluates the maritime potential and considers economic development, the socio-economic aspects of the asset and the conservation of the natural resource in terms of sustainable development.
In Ireland there is no such policy.
In Ireland the Marine leisure industry is currently valued at over 700 million per annum with marine leisure tourism valued at over 430 million per annum more valuable than the entire golf tourism economy.
The potential to grow this sector is enormous as we currently have one of the lowest boat ownership ratios in Europe, 1 boat for every 158 people, far below the European average of one boat per 46 people. Even to bring us the UK average of 1 boat per 100 people would increase the sector by a third.
With all existing marinas full or nearing capacity it is time that proper consideration be given to this important sector but before any development plans are initiated it would be better if an integrated National maritime plan for Ireland was in place, said an IMF spokesperson.
Time is critical and further delays and procrastination is unacceptable. It is time for a politician with vision to initiate a national debate and ensure that an informed integrated national maritime policy is developed and implemented.