Here’s a follow up on our recent blog posts regarding the proposed re-zoning of the Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area.
The original concept document prepared by Anchor Environmental Consultants proposed this become a no-take zone and that all diving should be banned. This had divers from around South Africa up in arms and many registered as interested and affected parties and sent letters of objection to Anchor Environmental.
This prompted an amendment to the concept document, where diving (and free diving) would be allowed with a permit, but that diving could only take place between 08:00 and 16:00.
A public meeting was held at the Crassula Hall in Betty’s Bay last night and many anglers, spear fishermen, free divers and scuba divers, some coming from as far as Cape Town, attended to ask questions and air their views.
Barry Clark of Anchor Environmental Consultants presented data on the reasons why a no-take MPA had been proposed and provided lots of stats taken from other no-take MPAs showing the benefits to the fish population.
During the meeting, Barry Clark admitted: “the original concept document erroneously went out proposing a ban on diving, but we realised we would not get your support if we proposed a ban on diving”. So thank you divers, for putting pressure on them to change the proposal.
Many of those there raised questions, objections and suggestions. These were minuted and Anchor Environmental will forward a copy of the minutes to all registered interested and affected parties.
As divers, we objected to the proposal that diving would only be allowed take place between 08:00 and 16:00 and requested that we be permitted to night dive, provided they contacted the local Cape Nature office (or the like) to inform them they would be doing a night dive and where and when this would take place (and not to be mistaken for poachers).
The next step is for Anchor Environmental to forward record of the meeting to the Minister of the Department of Environmental Affairs for her to make a final proposal. The intent will then be issued in the Government Gazette. I hope we get to know about when this is issued.
So, we still do not know if our requests be taken into consideration – whether we will be permitted to dive there; whether free divers would need to buy a permit; and if we would be allowed to do night dives in the MPA.
We need to prevent precedents from being set – the more we concede, the harder it will be for us to fight against the ban on diving, and night diving in other MPAs.
Will keep you updated.