Pretoria - The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment had noted concerns about the seismic surveys to be conducted by Shell and Impact Africa Limited off the coast of South Africa in search for oil and gas reserves, it said on Monday.
On Sunday morning, the oil multinational giant reportedly docked its new seismic survey ship, Amazon Warrior, at the Cape Town Harbour in preparation for oil exploration off the Garden Route coastline.
The search, set to be conducted between December and February 2022, has angered environmental activists.
By Monday morning, more than 160 000 people had added their voices to a petition by Oceans Not Oil Coalition seeking to block Shell from conducting seismic blasts.
Following the rising disgruntlement, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment said Shell’s surveys had been authorised and could be set aside only by a court.
“The impact of the seismic survey to be undertaken by Shell and Impact Africa has been authorised under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 2002 (Act No. 28 of 2002), (MPRDA) which, under section 39(2) of the Act, requires the submission of an environmental management plan which is to assess and evaluate the environmental impacts of the activity,” said spokesperson Albi Modise.
The Oceans Not Oil Coalition on change.org appeals to people to sign the petition “to support our call on Honourable Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environmental Affairs to withdraw the approval of this application”.
Modise said the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act is administered under the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy – not the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.
“The minister of minerals resources and energy is the minister responsible for the administration of the MPRDA. The minister responsible for environmental affairs is, therefore, not mandated to consider the application or to make a decision on the authorisation of the seismic survey,” said Modise.
“It should be noted that since the coming into effect of the One Environment System on 8 December 2014, the application process for the seismic surveys was finalised. All decisions made under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act at the time remain valid and binding until set aside by a court of law.”
According to the petition, Shell will conduct the seismic survey in search of oil or gas deposits from Morgan Bay to Port St Johns.
“The vessel operated by Shell Exploration and Production SA’s hirelings, Shearwater GeoServices, will, for five months, drag up to 48 air guns methodically 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,” the petition says.
“The ship will work around the clock, firing the air guns every 10 seconds. In the process, marine life on the sensitive Wild Coast will be panicked and damaged.”
The petition added that “many sea creatures could be affected in the coming months — whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, sharks and even crabs and tiny shellfish will be blasted”.