South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs is lobbying to establish 22 marine protected areas (MPAs) along the coast. This move is a long time coming; currently less than 0.4% of South Africa’s coastline is protected!
World famous Aliwal Shoal is set to be among the 22 MPAs that will increase the total marine protected areas to more than 5%. The entire draft notice by Minister Edna Molewa is available on the South African Department of Environmental Affairs’ website.
Diving Aliwal Shoal
The shoal is claimed to offer some of the most exciting scuba diving in the world. Divers across the globe travel to the southern tip of Africa to dive this amazing spot. Aliwal includes both hard and soft corals, two wrecks, a plethora of marine life, including predators. Highlights are Grey nurse sharks (“raggies” in the local lingo), tiger sharks, manta rays, dolphins and whale sharks.
Impacts on local industry and conservation
The marine parks proposal would prevent bottom-fishing by net, however limited fishing by permit would be allowed. Research areas would prevent marine activities, including diving, from occurring in the designated areas.
Arguments for and against the proposal
A hearing in the town of Umkomaas last week was described as reaching ‘fever pitch”. The local fishermen and representatives from the private sector claimed that fishing provided much needed income for the poor and that the community would lose millions if marine activities (including scuba diving) were curtailed in the area.
Conservationists rebutted the arguments stating that too many damaging demands were being made on the environment. These included taxing the environment by fishing, recreational activities and oil and gas exploration companies that had been setting off underwater explosions in the area. The prevailing view is that by creating a marine protected area, the natural diversity could be restored. Our view, ‘stop the explosions, stop the fishing allow the diving!’
Have your say!
As per the draft notice, members of the public can submit their comments for or against the declaration within 90 days from the date of publication in the Government Gazette. Have a voice and influence the details of the marine protected areas submit your e-mail before the 17 May 2017!.
Dive The World supports shark conservation in South Africa. When you book with Dive The World, a portion of your trip fee is donated to Sharklife.