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South Africa Introduces New Permit System for Scuba Divers in Marine Protected Areas

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism will in future require recreational scuba divers to obtain a permit for recreational scuba diving in four of its Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), namely Table Mountain National Park, Bird Island, Pondoland and Aliwal Shoal as exemptions for recreational scuba diving in these MPAs expire on 31 December 2006.

Declaration of the above four Marine Protected Areas as promulgated under Section 43 of the Marine Living Resources Act, Act 18 of 1998, Government Gazette No.’s 26430, 26431, 26432, 26433 published on 4 June 2004 state that: “…no person may SCUBA dive or attempt to SCUBA dive in the Marine Protected Area except on the authority of a SCUBA diving permit” and that “ person may operate or attempt to operate a SCUBA diving business in the Marine Protected Area except on the authority of a SCUBA diving business permit”.

Scuba diver businesses have been exempted from requiring a permit to operate within these MPA’s from 01 January 2007 until 31 December 2007 (or until an operator permit system is in place) and all affected scuba diving business operators therefore need to obtain an exemption from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism: Marine and Coastal Management by applying via email or post to the address below. Operators must keep their exemption with them (or a certified copy) and a list of the names of all clients with them on each dive for possible inspection (on the boat, or, if shore diving, in their car).

Conditions applicable to scuba diving in the MPAs listed above will be available on the departmental website or , at MCM’s offices situated at 7th floor, Foretrust Building, Martin Hammerschlag Way, Cape Town, and available at certain Post Offices. Following consultation with scuba-diving representatives, the diving conditions within the MPAs have been relaxed to allow night diving in three of the MPAs under certain conditions (excluding Bird Island where scuba diving is restricted to between 08:00 and 16:00 daily). Diver propulsion vehicles and “shark sticks” may be used. For a full list of conditions, see the DEAT website. The conditions will apply from date of purchase to divers purchasing a recreational permit between 11 and 31 December 2006, apart from those relating to night diving which will only come into effect from 1 January 2007.

Recreational scuba divers can obtain the required permit from Post Offices for an annual fee of R75 and a R45 monthly fee. The permits are already available at Post Offices although it will only be required from 1 January 2007 to divers who currently have an individual exemption issued by MCM which is valid to 31 December 2006. The R75 permits will be valid for one year. Divers must keep their permit (or a certified copy of it) with them on each dive for possible inspection (on a boat, or, if shore diving, in their car).

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