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Shooting permits: Why it's important to have them.


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#1 Drew

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 06:42 PM

Recently, I was on a trip shooting cetaceans with a group.  I'd assumed everyone who was going to shoot underwater would have to apply for permits from the country's Ministry of Tourism and Defense (Navy) and Coast Guard as I did.  To my utter surprise, there were several groups of photographers who did not have permits and tried to fly under the radar because of intermittent enforcement from the said country's Navy/Coast Guard.
I bring up this issue because it's important to be totally legal in our activities because of several factors:
 
1.   Respect for local government/people:  As a visitor, it's important to show respect by applying for all the permits necessary to legally take images. It's not important that in the entire time I was there, no one checked the permits.  It's not your country and there are laws to be followed.  It's common courtesy really.
2.   Permits control the number of people interacting with wildlife, so there isn't a free for all.  For example in Sri Lanka, there's a general lack of rules for whale viewing, so much so that competing operators claim the "other" boats are harassing the whales.  Still, there's a growing number of people thinking swimming with whales is totally easy and promoting them without actually having any permits.   It's not only illegal but also detrimental to the health of the population of whales in the area.  One only has to look at Ruruutu in Tahiti to see the effects of badly managed whale watching.  The population of humpbacks have dwindled over the years.
3.   Most publications and competitions want permits: The most important reason for those intending to publish their photos for competitions and publications is that many competitions like the BBC/NHMC Wildlife Photographer of the Year requires permits to prove the shots were taken legally. This protects you if someone raises doubts on the legitimacy of your images, including the authorities from the country of origin.  Your reputation would be pretty tarnished is the legitimacy of your photographs come into question.
 
Let's also be real in that most of us want to go to countries where there are lax rules for engaging in these sort of activities.  Ever try getting a shooting permit for Blue/Grey whales in California and Mexico?  It isn't easy at all!  So many go to places where the rules are lax.  However, that should not mean that one should flout all rules because they can afford it.  For those who try to fly under the radar because they are too lazy to get the permits or think they are above the law, don't be surprised if you get called out publicly.  I hope you don't get caught, but why take the risk?
 
 

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#2 John Bantin

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 12:09 AM

Correct!


I buy my own photographic kit. Diving equipment manufacturers and diving services suppliers get even-handed treatment from me whether they choose to advertise in the publications I write for or not. All the equipment I get on loan is returned as soon as it is finished with. Did you know you can now get Diver Mag as an iPad/Android app?

 

#3 Paul Kay

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 01:55 AM

Ever try getting a shooting permit for Blue/Grey whales in California and Mexico?  It isn't easy at all!

 

It should be obvious that any permit scheme should be intended to be restrictive and reduce the numbers of people undertaking photography (or any other activity requiring a permit). In some countries permit applications require a valid reason for requiring one - its should not be just a matter of buying one - and sometimes a track record of taking photos of similar species to the ones requiring the permit is required. I remember talking to a picture editor who required an image of a specific, protected species, and who could not use the best images submitted because they were not taken under permit - a financial loss to the photographer concerned.


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#4 Rocha

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Posted 19 April 2013 - 09:28 AM

It is a little different in the Philippines. Permits are not required for the most part, except when you are shooting inside marine reserves. In this case, permit fees go directly into conservation action and it is a great thing. In other words, if there is permit money from photographers and divers coming in, the fishermen will not go out fishing and the dive sites will only get better. Win win!


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#5 Tzetsin

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 09:28 AM

I'm glad to read this.  I just received my housing from Nauticam and intend to shoot in Cebu Phils.  I'd never heard of permits for shooting underwater before.  

 

These permits you speak of, do you need them to shoot underwater "period" or just to photograph certain species? 

 

It is a little different in the Philippines. Permits are not required for the most part, except when you are shooting inside marine reserves. In this case, permit fees go directly into conservation action and it is a great thing. In other words, if there is permit money from photographers and divers coming in, the fishermen will not go out fishing and the dive sites will only get better. Win win!



#6 Drew

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 10:24 AM

Permits in many of the dive areas in PI are really just camera fees to raise money.  There's no application and everyone who pays can get one.  There's also the issue of how much of the money actually goes into the protection of dive site.  Quite a few politicians jump on the revenue band wagon where the MPA is concerned.  First it was a dive fee, then they see revenue in charging for cameras etc.  Not as simple as it seems.
The permits I am talking about is as Paul says, to limit the number of people interacting with the animals.   Unfortunately, in developing nations, enforcement isn't always strict and there's always someone to pay to ignore such "administrative difficulties".


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#7 Tzetsin

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 07:25 PM

What kind of places should I expect to find photographer fees?   Like I said, i've never even heard of this before, so i wouldnt be one of those guys trying to fly under the radar, just one of those that would plead ignorance ;D  I know the phils quite well, fee or no fee, sometimes your just paying because you have the money to pay it.



#8 Drew

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 05:36 AM

I'm pretty sure your operator will charge you accordingly.


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#9 troporobo

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 04:35 PM

I am in full agreement in principle, but have some issues with how this is playing out in the Philippines in practice

 

Ideally dive and photo fees would go toward conservation, enforcement, and control, leading to more tourism and opportunities, less fishing, and a win-win for divers and the local community.   

 

However in Anilao the fees were doubled this year, with no prospect for improvement on any of these aspects.  Enforcement of the fee has become strict, but at the same time enforcement of the rules has pretty much disappeared.  We see fishermen every night in protected areas. The locals tell us that the fee goes into a black hole at the barangay hall, i.e. it is just being trousered.  Some operators even sell the same permits several times, or reuse them for subsequent dives, charging each diver but pocketing the "surplus" fee themselves. When you ask to see the receipt and permit, it is conveniently "back in the office" or "on file".  

 

We have to pay for the reasons stated above, and this is appropriate.  My solution is to require the hard copy of both receipt and permit with my name and the date on them in ink.  No paper, no money.  This has led to a few arguments but eventually they get it.  



#10 MortenHansen

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 04:36 PM

I'm pretty sure your operator will charge you accordingly.

haha, see thats a good point! :D



#11 Tzetsin

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 09:11 PM

Thanks for the info guys :)



#12 Drew

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 01:31 AM

Troporobo, the locals in Anilao have retained fishing rights in marked locations since there are "invisible" lines delineating the protected areas.  So it sometimes seems like they drift into the protected areas but it is pretty well enforced. Sure you get the odd rule breakage.  Unfortunately, there are always those who break the rules in any society.


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#13 Rocha

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 06:32 AM

Well, I can't speak for all of the marine reserves in the Philippines, but I can tell you that at least in some of them it does work. Over the past 4-5 years I did a lot of diving around Dumaguete (and some in Cebu), and the only places where I saw fish bigger than a dinner plate were inside reserves that I had to pay photo/dive fees. I can't remember the names of the reserves in Cebu, but just do some dives along the coast outside reserves and then go to places like Dawin and Apo Island, the difference is night and day...


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#14 troporobo

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 06:57 PM

I agree that some of the reserves are working, and I am resigned to the fact that enforcement will never be perfect.  I have a lot of sympathy for the local communities that rely on fishing - they lead difficult lives

 

What I object to is the corrupt system for the fees that has evolved, and the cynicism of raising them while simultaneously reducing the effort that they are supposed to support



#15 Marjo

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 06:34 AM

Same goes for photographing in the US. For example, photographing seaturtles, such such leatherbacks, greens and hawksbills, require permits, and they are very hard to get. I see people photograph them all the time, as were Ilive is prime nesting for those 3 species. However, it is not legal to photograph them without permit and I have seen one "very big name" production shut down due to them showing up to photograph permits thinking it will not be a problem, they will just get a permit on the fly based on who they are and what they do.


Edited by Marjo, 10 February 2014 - 06:35 AM.