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West Coast fishing, communities ready for seismic battle

Naseegh Jaffer, director at Masifundise Development Trust

Naseegh Jaffer, director at Masifundise Development Trust

Published Jan 17, 2022


CAPE TOWN - Small-scale fishing communities and environmental organisations along the West Coast are gearing up for another legal battle to interdict an exploratory seismic survey by an Australian company on their shores.

Their move comes on the back of oil giant Shell pulling its seismic survey vessel Amazon Warrior from South Africa, after the high court in Makhanda found it had failed in its duty to meaningfully consult the people who would be affected by the survey.

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The West Coast fishing communities have been up in arms after it emerged that Searcher Seismic, an Australian geoscience data service provider, was apparently granted permission by Petroleum Agency SA (Pasa) to undertake a survey programme.

They said this 2D and 3D seismic survey could last for 180 days between January and May 2022, and could be a “threat” to livelihoods and marine resources.

The fishing communities, with the assistance and support of the Legal Resource Centre, have since sent a letter demanding that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and Searcher Seismic, stop carrying out their exploratory seismic survey.

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According to the letter of demand, a notice which appeared on the Searcher Seismic website dated December 15, 2021, gave notice that the DMRE had granted the company a Reconnaissance Permit to undertake a seismic survey programme off the West Coast of South Africa from January 15.

However, they said it is not known who the letter was sent to and/or whether and where any other notification was published.

Additionally, the fishing communities have raised concerns regarding the permit granted to the company, saying it failed to fulfil the necessary public participation and community consultative processes.

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While the DMRE said it would respond to questions in due course, Searcher Seismic did not respond to queries on Sunday.

Attorney at Legal Resource Centre, Wilmien Wicomb said: “As a necessary part of both the permit application and the environmental authorisation process, Searcher was required to properly consult with interested and affected parties, including our clients. Searcher failed to do so when applying for the permit and has not yet consulted with such parties prior to commencement of its seismic survey programme. In the absence of a valid environmental authorisation and Permit, Searcher’s activities and operations pursuant to the Permit are unlawful.”

Naseegh Jaffer, director at Masifundise Development Trust, said they are set to approach the Western Cape High Court with an interdict.

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“We are now confident that we can take this struggle into the legal space and we are certain that we can secure a victory for the fishing communities of the West Coast, and the whole country, that are being harassed by these developments that are threatening their livelihoods.

“We are incredibly concerned about the aggressive movement towards damaging extractive activities. These activities are beginning to appear and inundate South Africa’s coastline. Local communities are confronted by these threats on a daily basis and stand to lose their livelihoods and their marine resources,” Jaffer said.

Langebaan resident, Solene Smith said they don’t want oil and gas exploration of any kind on their shores.

“The damage that could occur from these surveys could be irreparable and devastating to us and our livelihoods. Development on our coasts cannot happen without the inclusion of the local communities that will be impacted,” said Smith.

Cape Times

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