Photo Cred: Jay Caboz
Oceans Not Oil national coastal protest 4- 6 Feb 2022
Once again ordinary South Africans are coming out in their numbers all over the coastline in solidarity with a growing network of affected small-scale fishers and indigenous communities, environmental justice organisations, ocean and climate activists to demand the halting of oil and gas development in our oceans.
On Monday (7th Feb) the application to halt the West Coast seismic survey by Searcher Geodata UK Limited (Searcher) will be heard in the Cape Town High Court. Their permit area is enormous, encompassing 297 089 km2 located offshore between the South African/Namibian border and Cape Agulhas. The west coast fishing communities have contested the way in which the permit was issued by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and the Petroleum Agency of South Africa, saying that they were not consulted and have a deep, vested interest in preserving the natural environment of the west coast, which is the source of their livelihoods.
The Shell survey, and now the Searcher survey, required no Environmental Authorisation when applying for a Reconnaissance Permit when they were submitted. Both applications have simply produced an Environmental Management Plan (EMP). Searcher has applied for a Reconnaissance Permit in terms of Section 74, specifically, of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (No. 28 of 2002) (MPRDA) thus differing importantly in that they do not have to do a full EIA in terms of National Environmental Management Act for their permit.
Marine scientists Drs. Jean Harris, Jennifer Olbers and Kendyl Wright state in their report, ”Of specific concern is the impact on humpback whales and southern right whales which are still frequenting the west coast during the summer months (December – February), the impact on critically endangered (leatherback) turtles (migration routes in the area), the critically endangered African Penguin (changes in foraging behaviour and impacts on fitness) and the Cape fur seal (and consideration of current mass die-offs). Recent literature provides credible concern about ecosystem/food-chain impacts of seismic surveys, that may in turn have impact on fisheries, the severity and localisation of which will depend on coincidences with spawning and juvenile recruitment events.”
To begin development of offshore gas development at this stage of global warming makes the fundamental assumption that planetary tipping points and accelerating climatic events will wait, while South Africa adds gas to its reliance on coal, and that their consequential greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be benign. Given the existential issues at play that cannot be easily undone, and the enormous risk to ocean life that is already deeply compromised by ocean warming, acidification and deoxygenation, and that customary rights, heritage and livelihoods are becoming collateral damage, we are demanding an end to government’s push for oil and gas.
This ecological crisis demands ingenuity and imagination that only thinks with earth systems, replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, tidal, gravity and wave energy, hydroelectric, biomass and geothermal power. To get caught in the loop of using what gas reserves we have simply locks another fossil fuel in to our emissions trajectory. Like asbestos, fossil gas is a resource that climate science insists must stay underground.