Outcry over plans to slug scuba divers

By ADRIAN MILLER

AUSTRALIANS have always loved the ocean.

Going for a swim or surf has always been a fun, cheap day out.

Imagine the outcry if we had to pay for a day in the water.

Paying for a swim is the reality facing some people following a proposal from the Iemma Government to introduce an annual fee for scuba divers.

Under the plan, scuba divers would be forced to pay a $30 annual fee for diving, with the money being spent on the protection of the endangered grey nurse shark.

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW is calling on divers to boycott the fee and claims the government could save the shark by declaring sanctuary zones around known grey nurse shark habitats.

And local scuba divers are calling it a 'ridiculous' move by the government.

South Grafton High School's scuba squad dive master Tanya Fisher, who runs a scuba course for students each year, said scuba divers should not be punished for enjoying their passion. She said many scuba divers were aware of the fragility of the ocean and its creatures and should not have to pay because an animal is endangered.

"Scuba divers pay for an internationally recognised licence anyway, just the same way that people who drive boats pay for a licence," she said.

"Anyone who does do a diving course becomes more aware of the endangered species such as grey nurse sharks, so it's a ridiculous plan. It's ridiculous because we don't take from the ocean so we are not depleting resources."

Mrs Fisher said although the fee might not stop people from diving completely, it would affect the numbers of casual and student divers.



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