13 December 2006

The Permit Battle... Continued


Divers get legal opinion

Rule on scuba permits 'is beyond powers of MCM'
December 13, 2006 Edition 2

Melanie Gosling

Legal opinion obtained by Cape Town scuba divers is that the
government is acting beyond its powers in compelling them to buy
permits before they may dive in marine protected areas, which cover
the entire coastline of the Peninsula.

The R75 permits come into force on January 1 and will be valid for a
year. Monthly permits cost R45.

The legal opinion is that the Department of Environment's Marine
Living Resources Act does not allow the government to make rules to
control recreational uses of the sea that do not entail the
consumption of marine resources. Examples are swimming, surfing and
scuba diving.

Scuba divers were advised they could get the new permit legislation
overturned, but that this would require high court action that could
take three years and cost R500 000.

Monty Guest, chairman of the False Bay Underwater Club, said repeated
requests, made over three years by diving businesses, clubs, divers
and tourism organisations, not to introduce the permit system had been

"MCM has just gone ahead with this hugely flawed system. We've lodged
a complaint with the Public Protector.

"Fishermen kill sharks in marine protected areas and nothing happens
to them, but we cannot even swim underwater to watch marine life
without buying a permit.

"There are sewerage outfalls pumping effluent into the marine
protected area and nothing is done ... but scuba divers must have

"I believe they're doing it to collect money, because everyone knows
MCM is bankrupt, and to control poaching. But poachers by definition
operate outside the law, so they're not going to get dive permits. But
even if they did, how would that stop them poaching?"

Alan Boyd, of MCM, agreed that the act did not permit MCM to
promulgate legislation controlling non-consumptive recreational use of
protected areas, but said MCM might do so if the activity was causing

He conceded there was no evidence that scuba divers damaged the
Peninsula's kelp forests. He said permits were necessary to enable MCM
to "manage" the scuba diving industry, and was not an attempt to
control poaching.


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