Cape Town - Environmental and civil society groups are gearing up for their next battle with news of another seismic survey set to start on January 15 off the Western Cape coast by the Australian company Searcher Seismic in collaboration with the Petroleum Agency of South Africa.
We Are South Africans, a civil society movement with a reach of 15 million South Africans, alerted the public to this project when they launched an online petition against the survey on the vuma.earth website and have begun the process of seeking an interdict to stop Seismic Searcher from its planned survey on the Western Cape coast.
We Are South Africans founder Gilbert Martin said the project was granted a Reconnaissance Permit in terms of Section 74 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (No 28 of 2002) by the Petroleum Agency of South Africa that was effective from December 6, 2021.
Much like in the battle against Shell’s seismic survey, Martin said this survey would have a damaging effect on the fishing industry and communities off the West Coast.
In agreement, South African United Fishing Front chairperson Pedro Garcia said fishing communities were still bearing the brunt of the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, and in addition still suffered from fishing rights reductions which put them in an already precarious situation.
“Risk aversion and caution should be the order of the day. If a precautionary approach was being adopted, purely because we don’t know what the outcomes of these surveys are going to be on our resources and environment, then surely they (seismic surveys) should be suspended with immediate effect.
“Any further degradation of the environment and resources is going to heavily impact coastal communities who are reliant upon these resources,” said Garcia.
This came to light as the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies sub-committee on Marine Ecology and Risk Mitigation released an advisory calling for government to convene a task team to thoroughly evaluate and improve domestic legislation regarding the use of deep-sea seismic surveys to explore for oil and gas deposits in South African waters.
Due to relatively limited information on the long-term impacts of seismic surveys and noise pollution in marine environments, the committee urged the Department of Mineral Resource and Energy to exclusively issue exploration permits without the concurrence of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, which should be revoked.