Proposed bill makes whale watching an offence

2013-05-23 08:53
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Cape Town -  The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s proposed changes to South Africa’s marine resources legislation appears to make whale watching an offence — unless the watcher has her permission.

Business Day reports, Prof Butterworth is one of a group of 13 top academics and conservationists who have written to Joemat-Pettersson asking for more time to provide considered comment on the Marine Living Resources Amendment bill. The group includes Rhodes University fisheries scientist Kevern Cochrane, a previous director of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation resources use and fisheries and aqua culture conservation division.

Last week, the minister reduced the comment period from six weeks to three.

The clause to which Prof Butterworth refers says: "A person may not undertake commercial fishing, small-scale fishing, operate a fishing processing establishment or engage in nonconsumptive use as determined by the minister, unless a right to undertake or engage in such an activity or to operate such an establishment has been granted to such a person by the minister."

"As at present, any member of the public, engaged in, for example, whale watching, would be guilty of an offence unless they had received personal permission from the minister to do so," said University of Cape Town mathematician Doug Butterworth.

Whale watching has boomed worldwide over the past two decades, and is a considerable revenue-spinner in the Western Cape.  A 2009 study estimated that 13-million people went whale watching globally in 2008. Hermanus Whale Festival website states the town received over 100 000 visitors last year during the festival, held annually in September.

Ministerial spokesperson Palesa Mokomele said Joemat-Pettersson "would not comment yet on the letter".

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