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Environmental groups and West Coast communities protest against new seismic survey

Small-scale fishers Christian Adams (left) and Anthony Andrews (right) representing the Steenberg Cove Small Scale Fishers Community, with The Green Connection’s Liziwe McDaid, outside the Western Cape High Court today, in a bid to stop seismic blasting on the West Coast.

Small-scale fishers Christian Adams (left) and Anthony Andrews (right) representing the Steenberg Cove Small Scale Fishers Community, with The Green Connection’s Liziwe McDaid, outside the Western Cape High Court today, in a bid to stop seismic blasting on the West Coast.

Published Jan 24, 2022

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Cape Town - Small-scale fishers, environmental groups and a civil society movement have again banded together and organised court and protest action to stop seismic surveys, this time on the West Coast by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and Searcher Seismic UK Limited.

The DMRE said Searcher, the holder of a Reconnaissance Permit, intended to undertake a speculative 2D and 3D seismic survey programme over the 2021/2022 Austral Summer, between January and May this year.

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This comes less than a month after a successful court action that stopped Shell’s seismic surveys off the Wild Coast.

West Coast small-scale fishers, together with the Green Connection, signed and delivered the Founding Affidavit to the Western Cape High Court on Friday, where advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi will represent the applicants on February 7.

Green Connection strategic lead Liziwe McDaid said the seismic surveys could affect coastal communities all the way from Hondeklipbaai in Northern Cape down past Langebaan and Saldanha Bay on the West Coast.

She said the sheer scope of these operations was a key motivator for The Green Connection supporting the case as an applicant.

Steenberg’s Cove fisherman and one of the applicants, Christian John Adams, said: “We want to stop the seismic surveys that the government has approved to happen here on the West Coast. We want to stop the blasting because of our cultural heritage and the connection that we have with the ocean.”

Gilbert Martin, the founder of We Are South Africans, one of the civil society groups involved, said that apart from the threat the seismic surveys posed to the marine environment, they felt there was something amiss regarding the approval of the reconnaissance permit, as was the situation with the Wild Coast and Shell, where communities were not properly consulted.

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“Based on available information, Searcher has not applied for, or been granted, environmental authorisation under the National Environmental Management Act (Nema). As such, we believe that it should not be allowed to commence its seismic survey programme.

“Furthermore, we believe that it was unlawful to issue the reconnaissance permit without a Nema environmental authorisation.”

However, the DMRE and the Petroleum Agency SA said it was their view that all due legal compliance processes (and beyond) were followed, hence they granted the reconnaissance permit.

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The applicant groups and their supporters gathered at various locations around the country yesterday to show their disapproval. However, some protests were cancelled due to the heat.

Extinction Rebellion Cape Town spokesperson Deejay Jay said that due to the intense heatwave that had hit Cape Town and other parts of the Western Cape, organisations and activists that were hosting the protest action at Muizenberg Beach had collectively decided to postpone it until January 30.

“The irony is not lost on us that our protest action against the pursuit of destructive fossil fuel development and further induced climate change and the impacts they have on lives and livelihoods, and in favour of more sustainable development, has been postponed because of extreme heat probably made more severe and intense by the very things we are protesting against,” said Jay.

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