Home LATEST NEWS South African justice suspends Shell seismic exploration

South African justice suspends Shell seismic exploration


Open to the Indian Ocean in the south-east of the country, theWild coast“,” text “:” Wild Coast “}} ‘>Wild coast, with spectacular wild landscapes, covers some 300 km and has several nature reserves and marine protected areas.

It is there, over more than 6000 km2, that the energy giant had decided to launch a new seismic exploration project. Environmental activists, fishermen and locals opposed it, saying it poses a threat to marine life.

Thousands of ocean advocates and nature lovers marched in December on beaches across the country and blocked Shell gas stations, calling for a boycott.

Earlier this month, the country’s justice system rejected a first appeal by environmental activists. The Minister of Energy had defended the project, accusing his detractors of blocking the economic investments that South Africa needs.

This time, in this new action involving the community living in this hitherto unspoiled corner of nature, the Grahamstown court has forbidden to undertake seismic prospecting operations to the Anglo-Dutch multinational, with immediate effect, according to the judgment of which AFP has obtained a copy.

Protesters hold a huge representation of a mackerel.

Hundreds of people took part in a protest on Muizenberg Beach in Cape Town on December 5, 2021 to denounce Shell’s seismic exploration project.

Photo: Getty Images / RODGER BOSCH

Obligation to consult

Judge Gerald Bloem ruled that the company had not fulfilled the obligation to consult the local population, which notably holds fishing rights and maintains a special spiritual and cultural bond with the ocean.

We respect the court ruling and have suspended the study while we review the judgmenta Shell spokesperson told AFP, who did not say whether the company would appeal.

Prospecting offshore of fossil energies uses the analysis of the propagation of seismic waves to determine the geological structure of soils likely to contain hydrocarbons. The shock waves are sent by boats equipped with air cannons.

Studies of this nature have been conducted for over 50 years, with over 15 years of extensive scientific research.

A quote from A Shell spokesperson

South Africa is heavily dependent on imports for much of its energy needs. If viable resources were discovered at sea, it could significantly contribute to the country’s energy security, argued the spokesperson for Shell.

Protesters hold signs that read

Activists demonstrate against the proposed oil and gas exploration on Muizenberg beach. Protesters argue that the Shell project poses a danger to marine animals.

Photo: Getty Images / RODGER BOSCH

Affected fauna

According to environmentalists, these detonations risk disrupting the behavior of fauna, its diet, its reproduction as well as migrations, especially that of whales, most marine animals relying on hearing.

The voices of those directly affected have finally been heard, and the constitutional rights of indigenous peoples have been recognized, welcomed in a statement Sinegugu Zukulu, the collective of residents Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC), which brings together landowners, fishermen and traditional leaders.

It’s a huge victory, greeted Katherine Robinson, from the NGO Natural justice who was a civil party in the first legal action against the project.

If we are to tackle climate change, we must resist the exploitation of oil and gas in South Africa and across the continent, even though the lobbies are incredibly strong.

A quote from Katherine Robinson, from the NGO Natural justice.

Shell’s project was to run for five months without interruption. The research involved sending a powerful shock wave every ten seconds, 24 hours a day.

Shell had assured to take all precautions to avoid or minimize the impact on fish, marine mammals and other wildlife, in the research area located more than 20 km from the coast in deep waters of 700 to 3000 meters.

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