CAPE TOWN - Environmental activists have been left fuming, as they say evidence in their possession pointed “very strongly” that Australian geoscience company Searcher had possibly continued with its seismic blasting operations into on Wednesday, despite an interim interdict prohibiting such activity until the outcome of a pending court battle.
The interim interdict issued by Judge Daniel Thulare in the Western Cape High Court on Monday ordered Searcher to “discontinue any activities intended to give effect to or related to the seismic survey of the west and south-west coast of South Africa”, pending the outcome of part A of a court application brought by small-scale fishers and environmental activists which seeks an urgent interdict to stop it.
If the urgent interdict is granted, part B of the application seeks to set aside the permit granted to Searcher by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) to conduct the seismic survey.
Lawyers for Searcher and the DMRE did not respond to several requests for comment by deadline on Wednesday.
The activists argue that the permit was granted unlawfully, as it affected communities which were not meaningfully consulted, and that the blasting would cause irreparable harm to the ocean and marine life.
The Green Connection, who are also applicants in the legal matter, on Wednesday said there was evidence that Searcher was possibly still conducting the survey, despite the court’s temporary ruling.
“From available evidence from Marine Tracker and other sources, all signs pointed very strongly that Searcher had possibly continued with its blasting operations into today (yesterday, February 8). These signs include the fact that the vessel is still travelling along the traverse lines, which is the predetermined route that was submitted as part of their Environmental Management Programme (EMPr). Then, the vessel still seems to be operating under a status of ’restricted manoeuvrability’, which requires it to stay on that predetermined course, which is normal when conducting seismic surveys. Furthermore, the vessel is travelling very slowly (between 4-6 knots), as required for seismic operations, and its support vessel is also still trailing the main vessel,” the organisation said.
Small-scale fishers -- who are also applicants in the case -- Christian Adams, Solene Smith and Carmelita Mostert added that should it be found that Searcher had ignored the court order, “we must force our government to act decisively and severely punish them”.
The matter will be heard on March 7.