A dispute is brewing over where scuba divers can and can’t dive in North Side.
Opposition Leader Hon. Ezzard Miller is calling on the Department of Environment to remove four public moorings and demarcate the no dive zone boundaries to his specifications.
The DOE disagrees, saying there are no public moorings in the no dive zone, and that those boundaries have remained the same since they were established 30 years ago.
“This is getting really, really, really, really, really ridiculous,” said Mr. Miller Thursday (15 March) in the Legislative Assembly.
In the three decades since the no dive zones were first established in 1988, he said the boundaries have never properly been marked.
“When we created these dive zones in 1986, they didn’t have GPS unna, we used shore land markers, that still exist today,” said Mr. Miller.
Mr. Miller, in his remarks, accused the DOE of consistently misinforming the public, a claim director Gina Ebanks-Petrie disputed.
She said the no dive zones were originally mapped and gazetted in accordance with coordinates provided by Mr. Miller himself, these were at one time marked, she said, but those markers have fallen into disrepair.
“The difference between the zones as gazetted, and what the member for north side suggests should be the correct zones, would mean shifting the boundaries hundreds of feet for each ‘no dive zone,'” she said in a statement.
If the no dive zones were expanded to Mr. Miller’s suggested boundaries, she said it would mean scuba divers losing access to four world-famous dive sites including the ever-popular Babylon.
“Those extremely well-known dive sites, that have been publicized and magazines and on video and film for years and years and years, those are the ones that are very much requested,” said Red Sail Sports Operations Manager Rod McDowall.
Mr. McDowall remembers the tensions between divers and fishermen in the early 80’s, but said those have largely eased.
“I think that going in with more no dive zones is a negative process, I think resting the dive sites and everything is a very, very important so that we don’t have diver damage, but I don’t believe that the diver/fisherman conflict is a really legitimate one, I really do not,” said Mr. McDowall.
For his part, Mr. Miller stands by his version of the no dive zone boundaries as correct.
“The only people that want to change the time zone is the DOE and the dive industry and it ain’t going to happen on my watch,” vowed Mr. Miller.
Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said the DOE for many years has recommended the delineation of the no dive zones be updated to reflect advances in geo-referencing technology, namely GPS.
She said as they currently stand, the coordinates and descriptions no longer match up to the shore and drop-off, but says the proposed updating would not include any east-west movement of the boundaries.