Diving ban: WWF has its say

Cape Town - Conservation organisation WWF has reacted with mixed feelings to the ban on recreational diving, proposed by Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk as part of the fight to save abalone from extinction.

The WWF said it recognised that the status of abalone stocks in South Africa and the social effects of rampant poaching warrants urgent action and that a total ban on diving in prescribed areas could be a very effective way to simplify compliance and enforcement in these areas.

However, the organisation warned that such drastic measures could alienate one of marine conservation's most avid supporters, scuba divers and snorkellers.

The WWF also stressed the need for the development and implementation of a comprehensive, integrated compliance plan that tackles the poaching problem, from divers entering the water through to export across our borders.

It should involve a wide range of government institutions. In the absence of such an overall plan, measures like those proposed in recent months - closure of the legal fishery and now a ban on diving - will continue to be seen as simply punishing legal operations whilst illegal activity continues unabated, the organisation said.

"Just yesterday I was at the Betty's Bay Marine Protected Area and noticed a suspicious rubber duck on the outer reefs. I called the 24-hour anti-poaching line for the area, but there was no response. Under these conditions of negligible enforcement response, one must conclude that a ban on diving would be fruitless - poaching would continue unabated and at the cost of alienating one's support base, said Dr Deon Nel, Manager of the WWF Sanlam Living Waters Partnership.

A middle way

"Over and above the development of an inter-departmental compliance plan, the government simply needs to commit more resources and capacity to the fight against poaching and its effects on coastal communities. It's time we all recognised that this is well beyond merely an environmental issue, but one with dire socio-economic impacts on already impoverished coastal communities."

WWF conceded that if the government committed adequate resources to ensure effective compliance, a ban on diving in more remote areas, such as Dyer Island and Bird Island, could have significant benefits of simplifying enforcement and prosecution procedures.

However, in highly utilised areas, such as the Cape Peninsula, WWF believed a more inclusive process needed to be followed.

"Perhaps a middle way would be to permit diving only during daylight hours on weekends, when most recreation diving takes place. Such an arrangement would still assist in compliance, whilst also allowing scuba divers to appreciate the beauty of this area.

"However, these arrangements will need to be discussed directly with the diving fraternity. WWF encourages DEAT and the diving enthusiasts to engage constructively around this matter, and remains committed to assisting in this process in any way we can," Nel concluded.

  • Want to report poachers? Call 0800-116-110.
  • We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
    In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
    Subscribe to News24
    Lockdown For
    DAYS
    HRS
    MINS
    Voting Booth
    Matric results are out! Are you happy with your child's result?
    Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
    Results
    No, the pandemic really messed up their ability to focus
    34% - 78 votes
    Yes, they did well given the circumstances
    66% - 154 votes
    Vote
    Rand - Dollar
    15.10
    +0.9%
    Rand - Pound
    20.46
    +0.1%
    Rand - Euro
    17.13
    +0.0%
    Rand - Aus dollar
    10.85
    -0.1%
    Rand - Yen
    0.13
    +0.1%
    Gold
    1,834.71
    0.0%
    Silver
    24.29
    0.0%
    Palladium
    2,111.50
    0.0%
    Platinum
    1,034.00
    0.0%
    Brent Crude
    87.89
    -0.6%
    Top 40
    68,186
    -2.1%
    All Share
    74,835
    -1.9%
    Resource 10
    74,924
    -3.0%
    Industrial 25
    94,147
    -1.8%
    Financial 15
    15,076
    -0.2%
    All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
    Editorial feedback and complaints

    Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

    LEARN MORE