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Agency hits back at claims by fishers while they gear up for new seismic survey battle

Pasa has responded to claims by small-scale fishing communities and concerned environmental groups that there was a lack of meaningful consultation regarding Tosaco Energy’s endeavour. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Pasa has responded to claims by small-scale fishing communities and concerned environmental groups that there was a lack of meaningful consultation regarding Tosaco Energy’s endeavour. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 12, 2022

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Cape Town - The Petroleum Agency of South Africa (Pasa) has responded to claims by small-scale fishing communities and concerned environmental groups that there was a lack of meaningful consultation regarding Tosaco Energy’s endeavour to explore offshore oil and gas on the West Coast in the Northern Cape.

Despite the call by coastal communities and environmental groups for improved public consultation regarding projects of this nature, Tosaco Energy received Environmental Authorisation (EA) from the Department of Mineral Resources and Environment to proceed with seismic blasting in Block 1 from Alexander Bay to Hondeklipbaai, off the West Coast of South Africa.

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This comes just a few months after two high courts granted interim urgent interdicts against seismic surveys off the East and West Coasts – largely as a result of insufficient consultation with affected communities.

Pasa, however, said it granted Tosaco Energy’s EA an exploration right that was linked to the said EA and that had not yet been granted.

“Such a decision to grant or not to grant an exploration right can only be made once the process (where applicable) about the appeals against the granting of the EA is completed,” Pasa said.

Numerous small-scale fishers in Alexander Bay, Port Nolloth, Kleinzee, Hondeklipbaai and Kommagas, as well the eco-justice group The Green Connection, lodged appeals against the project last week and remained hopeful that their appeals would be favourable, considering past wins.

The Green Connection community outreach co-ordinator Neville van

Rooy recently visited several communities in the Northern Cape that would be affected by the project and said they faced similar issues that ultimately led to the interdicting of the Shell and Searcher Seismic’s oil and gas projects.

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“First there is a similar lack of meaningful consultation with those who would be affected. The fact that most of the fishermen were not available to attend the meetings should have been an indication they faced many limitations which should have been taken into account,” Van Rooy said.

Pasa encouraged applicants to make public participation accessible to those who may be interested and affected by the project and said it had no objection to the call for more accessible and sufficient public participation in projects of this nature.

However, Pasa said the comprehensive submission made by the applicant stated that adequate public participation was undertaken as the public was provided with a further 30 days extension to submit their comments during the EIA phase.

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Small-scale fishers in the area were concerned about the implications this seismic survey would have on their livelihoods and the health of the oceans.

Kleinsee small-scale fisher Samantha Cloete said: “Already we are seeing a difference in the snoek catch which, during this Easter period, used to be so abundant that there was sometimes not enough space to store all the fish.

“However, we have seen a decline in snoek stock over this period, which I believe is a result of the offshore oil and gas projects happening in our oceans.”

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Community activist Andy Pienaar from the Kobush Development Association said: “We hope that the authorisation will be set aside on appeal and that there will be other opportunities for our voices to be heard.”

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Cape Argus

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