Tuesday, March 29, 2011

PE operator caught chumming illegally: DEA Remains Silent

This blog has recorded a number of breaches of South African fisheries/environmental laws by the illegal boat based whale watching operator, Raggy Charters, based in Port Elizabeth. Despite Feike reporting each breach to the Department of Environmental Affairs, no action of any kind has been taken. Raggy Charters' black empowerment owner was, until recently, a senior SANParks employee. SANParks is part of the Department of Environmental Affairs and reports to the same Minister.

However, the most recent conduct of Raggy Charters - and the continued refusal by DEA to act against Raggy Charters - is perhaps the most concerning.

It was openly reported this week in a number of Port Elizabeth media that the vessel, Orca, which is owned by Raggy Charters, was seen chumming in the vicinity of Hobie (Humewood) Beach, PE's premier swimming and recreational beach. Chumming is usually undertaken to attract sharks, which is exactly what transpired as Hobie Beach had to be closed to public bathing on 25 March.

The PE Municipality's beach office manager issued this statement (see also http://mype.co.za/new/2011/03/i-wouldnt-swim-off-of-hobie-or-kings-beach-for-a-while/#disqus_thread)

Beach Office is inundated with complaints regarding a Blue & White Ski Boat chumming off Mandela Bay recreational beaches. The same boat also search towards the back breaker line between Hobie Beach and Kings Beach.

This was confirmed and picked by our CCTV at Beach Office. The boat concerned was Orca.

The Chumming has caused public panic as ocean swimmers are training for the Ironman and Splash open water activities. Further concerns are that Orca's activity might attract sharks to the recreational beaches. Any attack on bathers could therefore be detrimental city's image as Watersports destination. It would be appreciated if Port Control and the ABYC could assist in addressing the matter.

Fernando Cain
Beach Office

On 29 March 2011, Raggy Charters' owner Lloyd Edwards admitted to chumming in a Herald Newspaper article. See also the MY PE blog http://mype.co.za/new/2011/03/so-was-someone-actually-chumming-off-of-our-beaches/

It is clear that Raggy Charters is of the opinion that it is able to act in blatant violation of our laws and that it knows DEA (for some reason) will continue to turn a blind eye as it has done in every previous case. Feike will therefore be approaching the Public Protector to investigate why DEA and its Minister - who are charged with enforcing a number of laws broken by Raggy Charters - continue to refuse to charge and prosecute Raggy Charters and its owner.

In addition, we will be supporting the laying of criminal charges against Raggy Charters, its owner and the film crew on board the Orca. The charges will include breaching the White Shark Cage Diving Regulations, the Integrated Coastal Management Act and the Sea Birds and Seals Protection Act. The penalties for violating these laws range from fines of R300 000 and R5 million to imprisonment of between 2 years and 10 years.

Postscript: Lloyd Edwards is named the "hooligan of the day" by the Herald Newspaper (29 March 2011)

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