A 52 year old British expat is facing a £27,000 fine or two years in jail after being accused of harassing dolphins near the Cape Town coast.
Ralph Rees has been accused of steering his boat through a 150-strong pod of the much-loved sea mammals in the False Bay area, this prompted enraged onlookers to verbally abuse Mr Rees as he returned to the shore. He was then swiftly marched to the local police station and charged under the 1998 Marine Living Resources Act, a law that charges people who “kill, fish for or harass a whale or a dolphin”.
The harbourmaster of False Bay, Pat Stacey, said: “I was on shore at the time and I could see him sailing through the dolphins in his motor boat. People were very upset on shore so I got a boat to take me out to where he was and escorted him back to the harbour. The law is very clear on this. Dolphins are a protected species under the act and must not be upset by people in boats”.
Mr Rees was taken into court last week where he was not asked to make a plea, he will return in September for sentencing.
South Africa holds a harsh stance with regards to disruptions of its precious marine life, the maximum fine is £27,000 but Mr Stacey insisted that such fines come few and far between. Whilst Mr Rees himself declined to comment on the matter, his wife offered some insight into how they were feeling: “He's very upset about the whole thing and a bit embarrassed. The dolphins were swimming round the boat – he didn't go to them. We've been made to feel like criminals over something we knew nothing about. He knew there were restrictions about getting close to whales but not dolphins and besides, they were swimming round the boat – how do you stop that?”