Marine tourism and sharks : a case study of Protea Banks.
Sjursaether, Gina Helene.
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Marine tourism is an expanding segment of both international and domestic tourism in KwaZulu-Natal and can be of valuable contribution to the national and local economy, but there are also concern s about its sustainability. Two of the most popular marine activities in KwaZulu-Natal are diving and recreational fishing. However, these two different user groups can also create conflicts as they have very different user practices in relation to the same marine area and its resources. While certain marine regions along the coast have been declared marine protected areas with site specific management plans, other popular marine areas remain almost unmanaged. Shelly Beach on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal is the most popular boat launching site on the Natal coastline with both divers and recreational fishermen visiting a fossilised sand dune reef called Protea Banks which is situated 7 to 8 km off-shore from Shelly Beach. The reef is famous for its abundance of fish as the attraction for fishermen and big sharks attracting divers. A controversial topic in association with Protea Banks is its shark population. The divers are concerned that the number of sharks is decreasing, while the fishermen are concerned about there being too many sharks eating their hooked fish before they can boat their catch. This study looks at marine tourism and sharks using Protea Banks as a case study for marine tourism and management. The focus is on stakeholders' and different marine user groups' opinions on management, marine resource protection and user conflict. The issue of sharks and sustainability in association with both diving and recreational fishing is also investigated. The study shows that the stakeholders have developed a system of self-regulation based on the experience gained from their utilisation of Protea Banks. The stakeholders prefer to maintain this system rath er than the authorities declaring the area a marine protected area or in other ways further involve the authorities. The various stakeholders express different but specific environmental concerns including carrying capaci ty, seasonality and unsustainable pressure during the peak tourist season, shark and fish management, and lack of enforcement of regulations. The study concludes with recommendations toward s a site specific management plan for Protea Banks.