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Scuba Diving Fee Will Boost Protection Measures F

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Protection measures for the critically endangered grey nurse shark could be boosted with the proposed introduction of a small fee for scuba divers to access ten critical habitat areas in NSW.

The State Government is in the process of consulting with dive operators and other stakeholders over a possible fee structure. Money raised will go directly to research and other projects aimed at protecting the grey nurse shark.

It is estimated there are less than 500 sharks remaining in NSW waters, which means the species could be extinct in this state within 20 years.

The State Government has introduced some of the strong protection measures for grey nurse sharks in the world. These include the creation in 2002 of ten critical habitat areas along the NSW coastline where the sharks are known to aggregate.

The areas are located at:

* Julian Rocks (Byron Bay)

* Fish Rock (South West Rocks)

* Green Island (South West Rocks)

* The Pinnacle (Forster)

* Big and Little Seal Rocks (south of Forster, merged as one site)

* Little Broughton Island (north of Port Stephens)

* Magic Point (Maroubra)

* Bass Point (Shellharbour)

* Tollgate Islands (Batemans Bay)

* Montague Island (Narooma)

One of the great pleasures of scuba diving in NSW is the chance to have a close encounter with a grey nurse shark, dubbed the “labrador of the sea” because of its friendly nature.

But this has created a situation where grey nurse shark aggregation sites (including the ten critical habitat areas and two other areas located within the Solitary Islands Marine Park) are so popular with divers, there may be a negative impact on the shark population unless control measures are put in place.

The dive fee and accompanying compliance measures will go a long way towards protecting the grey nurse shark in NSW through helping to fund vital projects.

The State Government is currently carrying out ongoing tagging and monitoring projects to learn more about the sharks’ feeding and migration habits.

Also, a world-first artificial breeding program has recently been announced, which will see embryos harvested from wild sharks and reared in specially constructed artificial uteri.

However these conservation efforts do have a certain cost to them, and the State Government believes that groups benefiting from the protection of the grey nurse shark should be asked to make a small contribution to these ongoing costs.

Most other recreational users of the state’s waterways pay some sort of fee for access to key resources. For example, recreational fishers pay a licence fee, with the funds raised reinvested in a range of projects to boost fishing, such as restocking and habitat restoration.

A similar system will operate under the proposed dive fee. The fee is not a tax but will raise money to help protect one of our most critically endangered animals.

Many other popular diving centres – including the Great Barrier Reef, the Red Sea, the Cayman Islands and Mexico – have a similar fee structure in place to protect ecologically-sensitive marine environments.

The fee will apply for people wishing to dive in grey nurse shark critical habitat areas. Divers will also be required to dive with specifically licensed commercial charter dive operators and to adhere to certain diving practices in place at the sites.

The State Government is continuing to consult with stakeholders over the fee system, and a date for its implementation has not been set.

The exact cost of the licence and the way it is administered will only be determined following careful consultation with industry and key stakeholders.

The NSW Government is aware of the important economic role recreational diving plays in many coastal communities and we are committed to ensuring the industry is not unduly affected as a result of the fee.

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Guest bluecod
Divers will also be required to dive with specifically licensed commercial charter dive operators

I'm not saying the plan won't help protect an allegedly endangered species, but to ensure divers must dive with a charter operator is just another example of one of many regulatory controls placed on "free" citizens of this state.

Its akin to saying "you can fish, but you must pay a charter operator to do so"

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