Another blow for Shell in seismic survey battle

Published Feb 18, 2022


CAPE TOWN - In another victory for small-scale fishers along the Wild Coast, petroleum giant Shell has lost its bid to appeal against an interim interdict for seismic survey operations.

The judgment, in which Shell’s application was dismissed, was celebrated by environmental and human rights organisations after it was handed down in the Eastern Cape High Court.

The Green Connection congratulated fishers and civil society for “standing together and fighting environmental injustices”.

Four environmental and human rights organisations - the Border Deep Sea Angling Association, the Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club, Natural Justice and Greenpeace Africa - supported by environmental law firm Cullinan & Associates, successfully filed an urgent interim interdict during December last year to prevent Shell from conducting the seismic survey.

Judge Gerald Bloem in his judgment on Thursday said the appeal would have “no reasonable prospects of success” and there was “no compelling reason why the appeal should be heard”.

“At the hearing of the application for leave to appeal, counsel for Shell informed the court that Shell will not undertake a seismic survey under the above exploration right before 31 May 2022, even if allowed to do so.

“It will only do so during the period between December 1 and May 31 2023, once again, if allowed to do so.

“It means that even if leave to appeal be granted, and the main application be dismissed, Shell will not conduct a seismic survey before November 2022, approximately 10 months away. The refusal of the application for leave to appeal will accordingly not have any effect on Shell until end of November 2022,” said Bloem.

Shell SA spokesperson Pam Ntaka said they were reviewing the court’s decision.

“Surveys of this nature have been conducted for over 50 years with more than 15 years of extensive peer-reviewed scientific research.

“South Africa is highly reliant on energy imports for many of its energy needs.

“If viable resources were to be found offshore, this could significantly contribute to the country’s energy security and the government’s economic development programmes,” said Ntaka.

According to the organisations who had filed for the interim interdict, the seismic testing operations would entail that the vessel, during its exploration activities to look for potential oil and gas fields, would, “for five months, fire air guns every 10 seconds through 6 011km² of ocean surface, firing extremely loud shock wave emissions that penetrate through 3km of water and 40km into the Earth’s crust below the seabed”, further adding that “seismic surveys have been linked to decreased sightings of marine life and decreased catch rates for commercial fishing.”

Cape Times

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