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Hundreds ‘paddle out’ nation-wide over Agulhas drilling rights

Paddle Out at Seaforth Beach, Simon’s Town. Picture: Jon Monsoon.

Paddle Out at Seaforth Beach, Simon’s Town. Picture: Jon Monsoon.

Published Jun 15, 2021


Cape Town - Hundreds of ocean lovers across the country gathered at various beaches along the coast over the weekend for a “paddle out” protest against the government’s approval of drilling rights in the Agulhas current.

The paddle out was organised by the Oceans Not Oil movement and its affiliates in response to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s approval of an application for exploratory offshore oil and gas drilling by Eni, an Italian oil company, and Sasol.

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Surfers, swimmers, paddlers and ocean lovers gathered in Alkantstrand, (Richards Bay), New Point Beach (Durban), Scottburgh Beach (KZN), Vaal River (Gauteng), Seaforth Beach, Simon’s Town (Cape Town) and Clifton Fourth Beach (Cape Town) to voice their concerns.

Oceans Not Oil Founding member Janet Solomon said: “Our request is for our common leadership to take South Africa into the future without oil and gas, and to lead the way for Africa in developing a socially owned renewable sector.”

The Oceans Not Oil affiliates include African Conservation Trust, AfriOceans, Conservation Alliance, Conservation Guardians, Masifundise Development Trust and Coastwatch.

Paddle Out at Seaforth Beach, Simon’s Town. Picture: Lesley Rochat.

AfriOceans chief executive and founder Lesley Rochat said the exploration was a direct threat to the coast in the event of an oil spill, and the continued burning of fossil fuels would destroy the oceans and the world through climate change.

“Because our oceans are our main carbon sinks, absorbing around a third of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, excess carbon is causing the ocean to become acidic, destroying marine life.

“If South Africa allows this, it is condemning its citizens to starvation, drought and displacement through the effects of the fossil fuel industry on climate change, and failing to protect human rights against it,” said Rochat.

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She said the application was a contradiction of the commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and the phasing out of all fossil fuels in order to avert the worst case climate scenarios.

Open water swimmer and Clifton Fourth Beach paddle out organiser Pearlie Joubert said that despite the environmental climate crisis being a key issue at the G7 Summit, the government gave people permission and permits for oil and gas drilling.

“Our oceans are already in distress with Cape Town municipality pumping tons of untreated sewage daily into the Atlantic and into False Bay.

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“We are in an energy crisis and we need to address it. But it seems to be business as usual with oil and gas drilling for South Africa,” said Joubert.

The Oceans Not Oil movement’s petition against the approval of Eni’s and Sasol’s application has garnered almost 15 000 signatures on the website.

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