The South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, has published a declaration of intent to establish several Marine Protected Areas. The Recreational Diving industry supports the preservation of the marine world, however; opposes the permit system proposed for scuba-divers.
OPPOSITION TO THE PROPOSED RESTRICTION OF RECREATIONAL SCUBA DIVERS IN THE DELCARATION TO ESTABLISH SEVERAL MARINE PROECTED AREAS IN SOUTH AFRICA:
Mr. Mohammed Valli Moosa, the South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, has published, for notice and comment, declaration of intent to establish several Marine Protected Areas along the South African Coastline:
1. Notice of Intention to Declare the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area Under Section 43 of the Marine Living Resources Act, 18 of 1998
2. Notice of Intention to Declare the Pondoland Marine Protected Area Under Section 43 of the Marine Living Resources Act, 18 of 1998
3. Notice of Intention to Declare the Bird Island Marine Protected Area Under Section 43 of the Marine Living Resources Act, 18 of 1998
4. Notice of Intention to Declare the Cape Peninsula Marine Protected Area Under Section 43 of the Marine Living Resources Act, 18 of 1998
5. Notice of Intention to Declare the Namaqualand Marine Protected Area Under Section 43 of the Marine Living Resources Act, 18 of 1998
For a full copy of the above drafts, please visit http://www.environment.gov.za/ go to the toolbar on the left and click on: policy and legislation
The recreational diving industry welcomes this notice and will support the preservation of the marine world, however; there are several concerns that we have regarding this policy:
From a recreational diver standpoint, the policy appears to be a hasty, ill-considered bureaucratic proposal out of touch with the realities of the situation.
Clause 10 contains the prohibitions on scuba divers. If these are to be the prohibitions then so be it, but the difficulty will be in enforcing them. This will not be achieved by the issue of permits or placing a limitation on the number of scuba divers.
Likewise, the stated objective of promoting eco-tourism cannot be achieved by limiting the individuals who are trained to promote it. The "permit" DEAT should seek to enforce, is the one already in place - the c-card issued by accredited scuba training agencies. This applies also to the scuba diving operator permit. This is already in place in the industry in the form of instructor and Divemaster accreditations.
The proposed notice will also have a significant impact on the previously disadvantaged which are now just discovering and actively participating in the sport of recreational scuba diving. These individuals can already barely afford to participate in a previously white dominated sport. To now require of them to obtain permits thereby imposing added cost and restriction would create the perception of, once again ,placing a particular activity out of their reach a return to the previous exclusion era.
South Africa has become famous for its wildlife and spectacular scenery above water. Underwater ecotourism both Nationally and Internationally is fast becoming as popular. One does not need a permit to view land game, why demand divers do so?
In fact the vast majority of recreational divers are very passionate about the protection of our underwater world and can be of assistance, if ever needed, in monitoring what is happening to our reefs and aquatic life. We would be encouraged to see the banning of shark fining and gill nets, a practise that is depleting our oceans of these magnificent creatures. In addition, we would also encourage some form of legislation which can effectively be policed, regulating commercial fishing along our coast line.
The above mentioned practises probably do more harm in a day, than all the divers in the country will do in a year. We are all speculating as there are no documented impact studies that divers do indeed have such a negative effect on our reefs?
Focusing on the real problems would be far more beneficial to our oceans and would impact the growth of our aquatic world a lot more than trying to tax recreational divers, who are already contributing to the economy of the country by partaking in our sport and attracting divers from all parts of the world to view our underwater environment.
There are also a number of questions the scuba industry has in support of its opposition to the proposed MPA which singles divers out:
1. Scuba Divers do not consume natural resources and therefore we should not be penalised.
2. There is no empirical data in South Africa that says our reefs can only support a certain amount of divers.
3. If this legislation were to be passed, how will it be enforced and who will do the policing?
4. What is going to be done about the poachers, would it not be a good idea for MCM and Parks Board to rather effectively stamp out poaching?
5. What will the criteria be for granting a permit to operate charter boats and dive schools in the Marine Protected Area (MPA)?
6. By setting a system in place whereby Dive Schools and Charter Boat operators would need to apply for permits in the MPA could result in the creation of a monopoly.
This legislation could end up alienating the people who are very keen to help and assist the government in preserving and protecting the marine environment.
The legislation as proposed is clearly in conflict with principles of non-discrimination against SCUBA divers and spear fishermen. Why are boaters, jet skiers, paddle skiers, skiers, fishermen, sailors, swimmers, rowers, kite surfers, boogie boarders, surfers etc. not viewed in the same light, many of whom have far more impact on the environment.
By signing this petition, you will be acknowledging your support of the diving industry by opposing any sort of permit system in respect of recreational scuba diving along the South African coast line.