July 22, 2008
We are seeing changes in laws regarding Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), tour guides, cylinder and equipment control, as well as working regulations. In some cases, the very freedom of a diver to go diving is going to be called into question. In this article, I hope to highlight some of the issues regarding the potential diving bans in various areas and try to explain some of the steps being taken to mitigate this threat.
Although diving is officially recognised as a sport and therefore falls under the Department of Sports and Recreation, it takes place within oceans, rivers and lakes.
This gives the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) some rights over the sport. In terms of the Constitution, DEAT is required to co-operate with other departments when dealing with their sphere of influence, but DEAT seldom worry about this technicality. When it comes to the marine environment, the Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) branch of DEAT have clearly taken steps to obtain some control over sport diving. Whether they have done this for environmental reasons, or because they believe that taxing the sport will provide a lucrative income stream, is a matter for hot debate. The fact is that MCM have regulated aspects of sport diving and unless challenged in the High Court, will continue to do so.
Until recently, divers were generally free to dive wherever they pleased and whenever they pleased. Logical restrictions did apply, such as in genuine nature reserves and busy harbours. During discussions with the MCM, a very different picture of the future emerged.
One official described a future scenario where diving would be generally banned along our coasts and only allowed in a few specific areas designated for the sport. To participants in a sport where freedom and exploration are part and parcel of the activity, this scenario was viewed with absolute horror.
A DIVING BAN WILL NOT PROTECT ABALONE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Thank you very much for your support in opposing South Africa's proposed diving bans!
With your help, Underwater Africa has collected a total of 4213 signatures.
This success is all the more remarkable given the comment period, which took place over South Africa's Christmas holidays. Some 2572 signatures were collected on the petition website and another 1641 from a paper-based petition.
We'd like to keep you informed about current and future issues that affect divers and the environment. Please visit our website at www.uwa.org.za, and register there if you have not done so already.
Thanks again for showing that you care, and standing up for your beliefs.
Information provided by
We thanks tour suppot.
These majestic animals are a massive eco-tourist attraction in the area and killing them can be compared to the slaughter of lions – a tragic loss of one of nature's awesome creations.
Tiger sharks have limited protection in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Aliwal Shoal where divers from around the world come to see them. Although the fisherman claims he caught the sharks outside the MPA (he was seen earlier that day fishing within the MPA area), he landed them in the MPA, which is against the law. As a result of eye witness reports, followed by public outcry, the fisherman is in the process of being charged.
It is suspected that a further five Tiger sharks were killed previously this year. This is a serious blow as dive operators report identifying only about 20 to 30 different large Tiger sharks during a season.
South Africa is considered a shark diving Mecca of the world and Aliwal Shoal is one of the shark diving hotspots of the country. Every year thousands of tourists come to South Africa to have a unique diving experience with some of the oceans top predators. This eco-tourist industry brings in millions of rands of revenue, and provides job opportunities in a country with a high unemployment rate.
It is estimated that Tiger shark diving in Aliwal Shoal generated over R18 million (USA$2,5 million) during 2007, while White shark cage diving in Gansbaai alone generates approximately R289 million per annum (USA$40 million). One Ragged-tooth shark is estimated to be worth R50 000 per annum (USA$7 000) and can live for 40 years or more. In its lifetime it is therefore worth approximately R2 250 000 (USA$310 000). This same shark if slaughtered will fetch only R1 000 once off (USA$140 – shark meat, depending on size and species, is worth only between R3-R18 per kilogram – USA$40c-2,5). Quite evidently the socio-economic value of a live shark far outweighs the value of a dead shark and the loss of any one of these species will therefore have severe impacts.
Despite this, of the over 200 different species of shark found in South African waters, only White sharks, Whale sharks and Basking sharks are fully protected. All other species may be legally caught and killed. Ragged-tooth sharks, Tiger sharks and Bull sharks have limited protection within MPAs. This limited protection of so few species is of little help since these animals know no boundaries and therefore remain vulnerable outside MPAs. Added to this, this protection is of little use when the existing laws are not adequately enforced.
The South African government owes it to its citizens, the world and future generations to protect its natural resources, as well as to support the lucrative and high profile shark ecotourism industry, including those who depend upon it for their livelihood.
- We therefore demand that the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mr. Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, ensures that Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) immediately improves protection of the following sharks of high eco-tourist value in the following ways:
- Tiger sharks, Ragged-tooth sharks, Bull sharks and Cow sharks may not, under any circumstances, recreational or commercial, be slaughtered and if caught they must be released – this protection is to apply not only in all MPAs but in all South African waters;
- Hammerhead sharks are given MPA protection (they may not be caught or landed in all MPAs);
- Blacktip sharks, Bronze whaler sharks and Dusky sharks are given protection within the Aliwal Shoal MPA (they may not be caught or landed in the Aliwal Shoal MPA)
- Scientific research is implemented in order to set sustainable quotas that will ensure the conservation of the Blacktip shark, Bronze whaler shark and Dusky shark, added to this;
- The Demersal Longline Fishery may never be allowed to extend beyond East London in order to restrict catches of the Blacktip shark, Bronze whaler shark and Dusky shark;
- Drumlines, or any similar baited device that aims to target, catch and/or kill any large shark are declared illegal fishing devices throughout South African waters;
- MCM's compliance department immediately launches tangible measures to adequately enforce laws for currently protected shark species both in and out of MPAs.
We cannot wait for government to do something – it will simply be too late. We therefore implore you to help us save our sharks. Our power collectively must not be underestimated if we are to ensure the survival of the rest of our Tiger shark population as well as that of other species we are privileged to still be seeing in our oceans. If you support this petition then please take the following simple steps – your signature will help:
- You can either log onto www.aoca.org.za and go to the petition link in the navigation bar and follow the instructions
- Alternatively you can email AOCA directly at email@example.com and write your own comments. Be sure to write in the subject line: Support of AOCA Petition for Protection of SA Sharks.
SHARKWATER THE FILM
For filmmaker Rob Stewart, exploring sharks began as an underwater adventure. What it turned into was a beautiful and dangerous life journey into the balance of life on earth. Driven by passion fed from a lifelong fascination with sharks, Stewart debunks historical stereotypes and media depictions of sharks as bloodthirsty, man-eating monsters and reveals the reality of sharks as pillars in the evolution of the seas. Filmed in visually stunning, high definition video, Sharkwater takes you into the most shark rich waters of the world, exposing the exploitation and corruption surrounding the world's shark populations in the marine reserves of Cocos Island, Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. In an effort to protect sharks, Stewart teams up with renegade conservationist Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Their unbelievable adventure together starts with a battle between the Sea Shepherd and shark poachers in Guatemala, resulting in pirate boat rammings, gunboat chases, mafia espionage, corrupt court systems and attempted murder charges, forcing them to flee for their lives. Through it all, Stewart discovers these magnificent creatures have gone from predator to prey, and how despite surviving the earth's history of mass extinctions, they could easily be wiped out within a few years due to human greed. Stewart's remarkable journey of courage and determination changes from a mission to save the world's sharks, into a fight for his life, and that of humankind.