Cape Town - Fishing communities and environmental groups gathered once more to protest outside the Western Cape High Court on Thursday as their long and strenuous battle to stop seismic surveys off South Africa’s coast prepared to conclude with the full hearing of the interim interdict that halted Searcher Seismic from its oil and gas exploration off the West Coast.
Judge Daniel Thulare heard the applicants and the respondents’ arguments to decide if the ban, which instructed Searcher to discontinue activities related to the seismic survey earlier in February, would remain in place.
Once the hearing adjourned, Thulare said he would consider the arguments brought forward and make the ruling soon. In the meantime, the interim interdict would remain.
Searcher vice-president Alan Hopping said they hoped they would be able to continue the operations they spent two years preparing for, which began after diligently gaining all approvals from the various government departments in South Africa.
“It is quite reasonable for people to be interested in what we are doing and seek explanations.
“To this end, we have successfully engaged with all local fishing groups except the applicants, who rather than entering dialogue preferred to immediately take court action.
“During survey operations (before the ‘interim interdict’) we successfully shared the same ocean space with multiple South African fishing groups where we committed to avoiding each other so both operations could continue,” said Hopping.
Fishing communities protesting outside the Western Cape High Court this morning where the full hearing of the interim interdict that halted Searcher Seismic from its oil and gas exploration off SA’s West Coast is taking place @TheCapeArgus @IOL @TheGreenConnect @MasifundiseDT pic.twitter.com/a8ZAbOiVlt— Kristin Engel (@_kuristina) February 24, 2022
Masifundise Development Trust programme manager Carmen Mannarino said small-scale fishers were very clear they would continue opposing oil and gas development in the ocean “because if these harmful developments did not stop, fishers’ livelihoods, traditions and identity would be compromised in irreparable ways”.
The Green Connection’s strategic lead, Liziwe McDaid, said: “We trust the law will once again be on the side of the small-scale fishers, who are fighting for their right, not only to sustain but also to decide their own livelihoods.
“For The Green Connection, the issue is simple: development is not progress if it threatens or endangers our rich yet delicate marine ecosystems or if it risks dismantling thousands of livelihoods that have been established over many generations.”
Hopping said: “We would very much like to pursue other projects in South Africa but unfortunately the cost to even try again with no business certainty makes SA un-investable for us.
“We have spent two years preparing, doing environmental studies and mobilising a survey vessel at a cost of approximately R30 million, only to be stopped (if part A is upheld) at the eleventh hour.”
If Part A was upheld, Hopping said they would not be able to continue with this project as the window for surveying closed in May and their permit expired in November so they would not be able to operate for the 12 to 18 months required to conduct the survey or spend over R30 million to seek a new permit and mobilise another vessel.