Oil company Shell is scheduled to start seismic exploration in December 2021 off the South African “Wild Coast”, between Morgan’s Bay and Port St John’s in the Eastern Cape. Shell has appointed Shearwater GeoServices Holding to conduct a 3D seismic survey, which will last from four to five months, and cover more than 6,000km² of ocean surface. The survey area is located more than 20km from the coast, with its closest point in water depths ranging between 700m and 3km, Daily Maverick has reported.

Environmental activists and concerned citizens are currently petitioning to block the multinational company from conducting seismic blasts to detect oil and gas reserves . During the seismic survey, the contracted vessel will shoot seismic waves, similar to those from earthquakes and explosions, down to the ocean floor to detect possible oil reserves. Environmentalists and concerned citizens wanting to support the petition, can sign it HERE.

Shell has consistently stated that its exploration right and environmental authorisation is legal and compliant.

The exploration rights date back to 2013. The department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) chief director of communications, Albi Modise, commented that ‘during 2013, an application for exploration rights was approved by the then Minister responsible for the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.’ According to Modise, this means that the decision remains valid and binding until set aside on review by a court of law.

Lawyers, scientists and activists have pored over the 2013 authorisation and say they have found shortcuts and holes and that the department of mineral resources & energy turned a deaf ear to scientific warnings about major injuries and harm to marine life, among them up to 38 species of cetaceans — whales and dolphins. According to the Daily Dispatch, it was stated in the authorisation papers that the impact on cetaceans of seismic “pulses” —  220 decibel explosions fired every 10 seconds for four months by 36 or more air guns — “could include physiological injury, behavioural avoidance of seismic survey areas, masking of environmental sounds and communication and indirect impacts due to effects of prey.”

The Mail & Guardian reports that a petition by the Oceans Not Oil coalition is calling on Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy to withdraw the approvals for the project. But her department says neither it nor its minister were involved in giving the project the go-ahead.

The seismic vessel, the coalition says, will drag an air gun array methodically through 6,011km2 of ocean surface, firing “extremely loud shockwave emissions” that penetrate through 3km of water and 40km into the Earth’s crust below the seabed. “In the process, marine life on the sensitive Wild Coast will be panicked and damaged. Whales, dolphins, sealspenguinssharks and even crabs and tiny shellfish will be blasted.” 

The high intensity sound reaches 230 to 250 decibels. “We’re talking about massive noise in the ocean,” says Janet Solomon, of Oceans Not Oil. “It’s like a spaceship taking off.”

Solomon has also noted that another application to explore off the coast between Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) and Plettenberg Bay remained open for public participation only until November 29, 2021.

Exploring oil and gas on the Wild Coast and on the Sunshine Coast, will not only affect marine life, but will have social and economic impacts on communities in these areas. Locals are unlikely reap any significant benefit, while multinationals destroy South Africa’s coastline.

It’s time to stop and think, Shell – Isn’t it time you put the environment and our planet ahead of a greedy pursuit of our oil and gas reserves?

Help protect the Wild Coast. Share this story and sign the Change.org petition HERE


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