“I hear that the SEARCHER documents state that we as Small-scale fishers will not be impacted at all. If they had consulted us they would have realised that more than 80% of small-scale fishers rely on traditional line fish and most rely on snoek for their basic food security for several months of the year. If they had included us we could have told them that we often have to travel over 20 km off shore to catch the snoek and hence we will be directly impacted by the seismic survey. They have not bothered to tell us when they are starting or how dangerous it will be for our boats at sea on the days that they are working. This could be dangerous for us. We would have also told them that they should not do the survey from March to August when it is the height of the snoek season.”
These are the words of Christian John Adams, just one of many applicants in the Searcher Geo Data UK Pty Ltd Seismic Survey court interdict to stop their seismic survey planned to take place this week. On Friday (21.01.2022) Christian John Adams walked in to court to hand in his affidavit. He is just one of many applicants in the Searcher Geo Data UK Pty Ltd Seismic Survey court interdict to stop their multi-client offshore oil and gas seismic survey planned taking place on the West Coast.
Christian John Adams wrote in his affidavit of the risks this survey will have on small scale fishing community that catches snoek and relies on it for food security for many months of the year. This survey will impact the height of the snoek season. The west coast communities say that at neither stage of the permit application or environmental management plan process, did Searcher Geo Data properly engage with them.
“I was brought up knowing that to be a fisher means to provide for one’s family and one’s community. I was taught by my grandparents that if we give generously to our neighbours who have not got fish, the ocean will give back to us. This is a value that has been entrenched in the fishing communities of the west coast and can still be seen in the tradition of sharing of fish, particularly harders and snoek, across households and communities. During snoek season the coastal communities share their fish with their relatives living on farms in the wheatlands and districts of Malmesbury, Picketberg, Lutzville. Sharing of fish is a custom that runs very deep in our culture. Although this has been affected by modern ways of living and also the poverty of many fishers, it still continues today. Especially at Christmas and during the snoek season. It is custom for West Coast fisher households to swop fish for vegetables or other goods. This reciprocity is a West Coast value.”
These traditional line fishers can travel as far out as 60 km to catch some species. The Searcher survey area is an enormous stretch of ocean from the Namibian border in the north down to Suldanha bay in the south, encompassing nearly 300 000 square kms that starts 20kms offshore. This survey could affect 18 biodiversity hotspots, 6 Marine Protected Areas, commercial fish spawning areas, overlaps with Bird Island, penguin and seal colonies and some ammunition and explosive dumps at at sea.
The seismic survey uses massive airgun arrays that they drag for kilometers behind a vessel blasting sound and pressure waves strong enough to penetrate 40kms of sea bed. These blasts go off every 10 seconds, day and night, and will continue for 5 months. High intensity sound reaches 230dB impacts marine life including soft tissue damage, hearing loss, the bends, disorientation, displacement, migratory diversion and animal stranding. There is not only science behind Christian John Adam’s affidavit, there is generational knowledge:
“We know the sea in so many ways: we can tell what fish will be available by looking at the sky, by smelling the wind, by feeling the wind against our faces. We know this West Coast and the way that sea and the weather interact here as if it was part of us….We have learnt to judge the depth of the water from its colour and the sound of the waves, we know this territory because it is part of us. This traditional knowledge is part of our culture, it is is who we are. We did not learn this knowledge at university but as a culture, the West Coast traditional fishers hold the knowledge of generations of ocean guardians.”
Protests against the Searcher Geo Data seismic survey extended around the coast from Mtunzini in KZN to Suldanha today (23.01.22) where the Gas Amendment Bill hearings were taking place. Fisher Christian John Adams was there:
BOYCOTT TSOGO SUN
In Durban Oceans Not Oil protested outside of Suncoast Casino, part of Tsogo Sun Gaming Ltd. One of Searcher Geo Data’s clients is Impact Oil and Gas. Johnny Copelyn who is chair of Tsogo Sun Gaming Ltd & Chair of Tsogo Sun Hotels Ltd is also Non-Executive Chairperson of Impact Oil and Gas. Impact Oil and Gas have a 22% stake in the Searcher offshore seismic survey. They were paid R500Million by Shell for a 50% stake in the Wild Coast survey, which has been stopped, for now, because of a substantially flawed and inadequate consultation process.
Oceans Not Oil co-founder, Janet Solomon, called for a boycott of Tsogo Sun hotels and casinos, “Searcher Geo Data refused to give an undertaking to stop the seismic survey this week. If Searcher Geo Data are refusing to listen to Fishing Communities and Organizations, Indigenous Leaders, Scientists, Farming Associations, Humanitarian Organizations, Environmental Organizations, Farmers, Land Owners, Sports Organizations, Companies, Tourism Bodies, Community Organizations, Animal Welfare Organizations and Environmental Conservation Organizations that are applicants in this case; and if Searcher’s clients, Impact Oil and Gas, are refusing to listen; if they don’t understand the harms that they will do to an already heavily compromised sea, to livelihoods and to global warming then, its time to speak their language – the language of profits and money.”
Senior Council, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, will be representing the applicants in this urgent interdict in the High Court of the Republic of South Africa, Western Cape Division.
* Children of the Sea say No