A row is brewing in the lucrative shark-cage diving industry after several established businesses in the Western Cape were unsuccessful in renewing their operating permits.
The Department of Environmental Affairs allocated 14 shark-cage diving permits on June 4. Eight are for Gansbaai, three for False Bay, two are for Quoin Point near Agulhas, and one is for Mossel Bay. A total of 26 applications were received, of which 14 were from new entrants.
All decisions are subject to the outcome of an appeals process, and the department said no permits would be issued until this process had been completed.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, several operators said the allocations would mean job losses, financial ruin and instability in the industry.
"This is a high-risk tourism industry, which attracts mostly foreigners. We cannot have inexperienced people who do not have sufficient resources when there are lives at stake," one operator said.
The operators added that the government's priority seemed to be race and gender, rather than credibility and safety.
Departmental spokesman Zolile Nqayi said eight of the existing permit holders had been "provisionally" successful, while six new operators had been granted permits provisionally.
"Applicants were scored across a variety of categories, including transformation, their operational plan and readiness to start operations."
Certain existing operators had been excluded on the basis of not using their permits enough, not having submitted the required documentation, or inadequate information.