Needing to have a local shop is listed on the official websites of several countries, and was mentioned by our yacht helper in Dominica
. Three reasons for this as I understand it are conservation (anti-poaching), job creation and preservation of the countries tourism rep as you don't like to see reports of divers lost
in the news. I've also heard that in some areas of the med diving is not allowed to preserve antiquities on the sea bed
but I've not had time to run that down yet. Maybe the easiest way to find out for sure is to go through PADI or some other dive associations site. Interested to know what you find out. Also, be aware the just because you don't see the officials doesn't mean they aren't there and in Dominica there were a lot of people taking a interest in what the cruisers were doing in their country.