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Mitigation My Fin!

Oceans Not Oil would like to take contention with Anglo-Dutch Shell’s belief that they can mitigate harms during their planned seismic survey off the Wild Coast.

Shell have said: 
“We take great care to prevent or minimise impacts on fish, marine mammals and other wildlife”. And that the survey will be “strictly following the international guidelines” of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, a UK government adviser on nature conservation. These are based on decades of global scientific research”[1]

Conclusions of a study done recently by Parsons et al (2009) heavily critiques the use of the JNCC seismic survey guidelines:

“The UK, like other EU member states, is required to establish a system of strict protection for the animal species listed in Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC which includes all cetaceans. The requirement for strict protection is clearly not being met through the current guidelines. Significantly, visual surveys alone as a ‘mitigation measure’ appear to be little more than a public relations exercise and may even be doing more harm than good. They may be giving management authorities, oil and gas companies, and the public a false sense of security that seismic survey impacts are being mitigated and that environmental requirements are being met. ” [2]

Also important considering the CGG services may also be operating along the coast in the same current, the study goes on ,” Operational guidelines are concerned only with the reduction of immediate effects. However, some of the more insidious, and potentially devastating, impacts arise through long-term, repeated, persistent or cumulative exposures. “

And finally the Parsons et al study warns,” Finally, with regards to evaluating the effectiveness of mitigation measures, there should be emphasis on, and acknowledgement of, the fact that simply because animals are visible in an area and are not visibly fleeing from a seismic survey vessel does not mean that there is no significant impact, i.e. absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence with respect to the impacts of underwater noise on cetaceans. 

These seismic survey airgun blasts will amount to 8640 sound and pressure waves travelling through the sea per day. They are powerful enough to penetrate 40kms into the seabed. Human are not allowed within 20kms of these surveys – why not if mitigation makes them harmless or ‘insignificant’? We invite the Shell representative to go diving for an hour at that 20km ‘fence line’ and see how they feel about their ‘mitigatory measures’ afterwards.


[1] Activists fear gas study threatens South Africa’s Wild Coast, 2021, African Inside, <https://www.africaninsider.com/countries/activists-fear-gas-study-threatens-south-africas-wild-coast/&gt;

[2] Parsons, E.C.M., Dolman, S.J., Jasny, M., Rose, N.A., Simmonds, M.P. and Wright, A.J., 2009. A critique of the UK’s JNCC seismic survey guidelines for minimising acoustic disturbance to marine mammals: Best practise?. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 58(5), pp.643-651.)

3 thoughts on “Mitigation My Fin! Leave a comment

  1. Shell is lying through its teeth ! Moreover, the UK is not exactly known for its best environmental practices compared with some other more responsible countries in the world. Shell is transparently using spurious arguments and MUST BE STOPPED !! It’s time to follow the New Zealand example and put a flotilla of boats blocking CGG’s path ! Moreover, the South African Ports Authority should deny the vessel access and no off-shore supply companies should replenish the vessel at sea. I’m surprised that this matter hasn’t hit the headlines in all our major newspapers, as well as Carte Blanche etc. Are they afraid to open this “Pandora’s Box” and expose our government and Big Oil for the charlatans that they are ? Come on South Africans !! Stand up for what you know is right !!!

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