No crime to watch whales

2013-05-25 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Whale watching has been saved.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Department yesterday withdrew certain sections of proposed new legislation that would have made whale-watching operations subject to ministerial permission.

The draft Living Marine Resources Bill was open to broad interpretation, said Professor Doug Butterworth of the Marine Development and Resources group at the University of Cape Town.

“The wording was badly put together, which made it possible to interpret it to mean that whale watching would be illegal without the minister’s specific permission,” he said.

Butterworth and a group of other interested parties in the fisheries industry sent an open letter to minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. They expressed concern over the aspects of the legislation and asked for the public comment period to be extended by 90 days.

This came after the minister last week shortened the process from six weeks to three.

Timothy Jacobs, a member of the ANC’s Western Cape sub-committee for economic transformation and development, said in reaction to the open letter: “A proper attempt to negotiate with officials of the department, rather than an open letter, would have enlightened academics that the department had already acknowledged that the bill in its present form was awkward.

“A decision has already been taken to withdraw all the proposed regulations, other than those that acknowledge the rights of small-scale fishermen.”

Butterworth said the academics welcomed Jacobs’s assurance, but would wait for the minister to confirm it.

Joemat-Pettersson’s spokesperson said yesterday she would not comment at this stage.

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